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Rains lift reservoir levels, brighten rabi prospects

Sudheer Pal Singh & Ajay Modi  |  New Delhi 

Sowing for primary like wheat, oilseeds and pulses can start earely.

With some regions of the country receiving late but increased rainfall, water reservoirs have risen about 35 per cent in the past one month, turning the energy availability further positive. At the same time, kharif crop prospects have improved even as the possibility of early rabi (winter crop) sowing has brightened.

The level of water stored in 81 reservoirs across the country has increased from 38 per cent of the total capacity of 151 billion cubic metres (bcm) last month to 51 per cent of the capacity currently.

The delay in monsoon had caused water storage to touch a record low of 9 per cent in June (see table), according to the latest data obtained from the Central Water Commission (CWC).

The rain deficit for the June-September season has narrowed to 20 per cent from 23 per cent a week earlier. Sowing for primary like wheat, oilseeds and pulses can start early.

“Even if this rainfall continues till September-end or beyond, we see no flood nor any delay in rabi cultivation,” said N B Singh, agriculture production commissioner in the agriculture ministry. Sowing of oilseeds and pulses in the rabi season begins mid-October, while planting of wheat starts in November.

Last week, Finance Minister said the country would try to make up for the loss in the kharif season by early and short-duration yields.

On the power front, the latest data of the shows daily hydro power availability in the country rose to 3.57 per cent more than the programmed generation on September 10 from 0.78 per cent last month when it had entered the positive territory for the first time since the derailing of monsoon (see table).

Accordingly, taking a cue from this improving situation, the average price of power traded in the market has also returned to normal levels. The latest data compiled by the Indian Energy Exchange show the average price of electricity traded on it has come down to Rs 2.75 per unit as recorded on Saturday. The delayed monsoon had led to drying of reservoir levels in June, leading to a crisis of power supply. This had pushed the average price of power sold in the market to over Rs 6.19 per unit then.

Sources at the exchange have, however, indicated that prices were not likely to go down any further. This moderation in power prices due to the resumption of the monsoon would reduce the subsidy burden of states which, otherwise, have to procure power at a high cost to tide over the electricity crisis.

A heat wave in the northern region and a delayed monsoon had pushed up the peak demand for power to over 111,000 Mw in the first half of the current financial year — around 5,000 Mw higher compared to the same period last year. This increased demand had pushed up the prices of power traded at the exchange to as high as Rs 12 per unit.

However, the current level of overall 51 per cent water storage in the reservoirs, or 77 billion cubic metres, is still lower than last year’s average water storage of 66 per cent and the last 10 years’ average storage of 62 per cent in the same period, according to data.

According to Singh, the current rains will help bolster the soil moisture regime to enable early sowing in areas (especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) where kharif planting could not be taken up. In other states, concerted efforts would be made to ensure timely sowing with a view to boosting rabi yields and make up for the kharif shortfall, he added.

First Published: Mon, September 14 2009. 00:28 IST