The monsoon has set in over the entire Andaman Sea and part of south Bay of Bengal, the first entry point to Indian territorial waters, right on schedule today.
It is likely to advance towards the Indian mainland and hit the Kerala coast and adjoining areas of the south peninsula by May 25, ahead of the normal arrival date of June 1.
Indicating this, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said conditions had turned favourable for the monsoon to progress over parts of the south Arabian Sea and extend over more of southern Bay of Bengal in the next two days.
The onset of the monsoon will herald the sowing of kharif crops, which account for nearly 60 per cent of the country’s annual crop output. Timely sowing is deemed the first step towards normal agricultural production.
Agriculture accounts for less than a fifth of Indian gross domestic product, but for the bulk of employment. A good kharif season augurs well for rural demand for a range of goods and services. Many large companies, including mulitnationals, are increasingly relying on rural demand to buoy sales, especially in the current downturn, so a fairly large section of corporate India’s performance relies on the outcome of the monsoons.
The monsoon will also replenish water in the major reservoirs, auguring well for crop irrigation and hydel power production. Over 65 of India’s total arable land lacks irrigation facilities and relies totally on rainfall for crop production.
The total live storage of water in the country’s 81 major reservoirs had dropped by May 1 this year to 26.5 billion cubic metres (BCM). This is nearly 33 per cent below last year’s corresponding level of 39.64 BCM and 10 per cent below normal water level for this time of the year.
Water storage in eight of these dams had declined to a critical level of below 30 per cent of capacity and four others had reported nil storage.
IMD’s long-range monsoon forecast has put the likely rainfall during this year’s entire four-month season (June to September) at around 96 per cent of the long-period average rainfall of 89 cm. It has held this level of rainfall to be “near normal”.
The monsoon was originally expected to hit the Kerala coast on May 26. But today the IMD said a low-pressure area is likely to form over the central Bay of Bengal around May 23, which will create conditions favourable for the arrival of the monsoon in Kerala between May 23 and 25.
Last year, the monsoon had set in over the Andaman Sea and Bay Islands as early as May 10, against the normal date of May 20. But it reached the Kerala coast only on May 31, just a day ahead of the normal date.
The total rainfall during the entire monsoon season in 2008 turned out to be 98 per cent of the normal though its distribution over the period was highly skewed, causing a marginal reduction in kharif production.
The IMD also indicated on Wednesday that the current heat wave over large tracts of north-western and central India, notably Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha, will begin to abate by Thursday, with a gradual drop in day temperature. Tuesday saw the highest maximum temperature of 47.5 degrees Celsius being recorded in Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan.
The IMD has also warned of isolated heavy rainfall in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala, Lakshadweep and parts of Karnataka in the next two days.