Southwest Monsoon withdraws one month after the normal date: Roundup on devastating floods and its impact on economy

  • The Southwest Monsoon started its retreat on Wednesday, marking the longest recorded delay in withdrawal of the four-month-long rainfall season, the India Meteorological Department said.

  • Conditions are becoming favourable for its further withdrawal from some more parts of northwest India during next two days and from remaining parts of northwest India and adjoining central India during subsequent 2-3 days, it said further.

  • The Home Ministry said that this years' above normal rainfall caused the deaths of more than 2,100 people and another 46 were reported missing; rains and floods affected more than 25 lakh people in 22 states displacing millions.

The Southwest Monsoon started its retreat on Wednesday, marking the longest recorded delay in withdrawal of the four-month-long rainfall season, the India Meteorological Department said.

"In view of the persistence of an anti-cyclonic circulation in the lower tropospheric level over northwest India, gradual reduction in moisture in the lower and mid-tropospheric levels and reduction in rainfall, the southwest monsoon has withdrawn from some parts of Punjab, Haryana and north Rajasthan today (Wednesday), 9 October, 2019 as against the normal date of 1 September," the IMD said in a statement. "The most delayed withdrawal in the past years has been recorded in 1961 (1st October 1961), followed by 30th September in 2007," the IMD added.

 Southwest Monsoon withdraws one month after the normal date: Roundup on devastating floods and its impact on economy

Map shows delayed withdrawal of monsoon. Image Xredit: India Met Department

Conditions are becoming favourable for its further withdrawal from some more parts of northwest India during next two days and from remaining parts of northwest India and adjoining central India during subsequent 2-3 days, it said further.

The monsoon was 'above normal' this year with the IMD recording precipitation of 110 percent of the Long Period Average (LPA), resulting in severe flooding and damage in several parts of the country. The LPA between 1961 to 2010 is 88 centimetres. This year also recorded the highest ever rainfall since 1994.

Graph shows the departure in trend as compared to normal across all four major zones in India. Image Credit: IMD

Graph shows the departure in trend as compared to normal across all four major zones in India. Image Credit: IMD

A tale of destruction

The Home Ministry said that this years' above normal rainfall caused the deaths of more than 2,100 people and another 46 were reported missing; rains and floods affected more than 25 lakh people in 22 states displacing millions.

The highest toll, of 399 people, was recorded in Maharashtra, followed by 227 deaths in West Bengal in rains, floods and landslides that hit as many as 357 districts in the country.

In Maharashtra, where 22 districts were hit by floods, 399 people died, 369 were injured and 7.19 lakh people were forced to seek shelter in 305 relief camps. The monsoon rains and floods hit 22 districts in West Bengal, where 227 people lost their lives, 37 received injuries, four were reported missing and 43,433 took shelter in 280 relief camps. In Bihar, 166 people have lost their lives and 1.96 lakh have taken shelter in 235 relief camps following the deluge that hit 28 districts in the state. A total of 182 people were killed, 38 were injured and seven have gone missing in Madhya Pradesh, where 32,996 people took shelter in 98 relief camps set up in 38 districts.

In Kerala, heavy rains and floods claimed 181 lives and injured 72. Fifteen people were reported missing in 13 districts. As many as 4.46 lakh people in the state took shelter in 2,227 relief camps. Twenty-two districts in Gujarat were hit during the monsoon season where 169 people lost their lives, 17 received injuries while 17,783 people took shelter in 102 relief camps. In Karnataka, 106 people lost their lives, 14 received injuries and six were missing due to rains and floods in 13 districts. As many as 2.48 lakh people took shelter in 3,233 relief camps.

The rains and floods claimed 97 lives in Assam, where 32 districts were hit by the deluge that resulted in 5.35 lakh people taking shelter in 1,357 relief camps.

According to the officials, 738 people were injured and nearly 20,000 animals were lost. The heavy rains and floods fully damaged 1.09 lakh houses, partially damaged 2.05 lakh houses and destroyed 14.14 lakh hectares of crops. A total of 2,120 people died during the monsoon season, an official said.

Impact on economy

In an economy overly dependent on monsoons, and already facing a slump, erratic distribution of rains, both geographically and over time, comes as a piece of bad news. A dry June leading up to one of the wettest Septembers ever shoved the Indian states that are major producers of foodgrain in severe flood distress. Worryingly, the monsoon is retreating late, around the second week of October when crops harvests are in full swing. Initial

Although the full extent of crop damage will be revealed once the finance and agriculture ministries come out with their annual end-of-monsoon reports, but rains in the first half of October may have caused post-harvest losses, apart from inflicting severe damage to standing leguminous crops like soybean and pulses due to floods. This could lead a drop in rural income and hence the spendings. However, the costs of foodgrains and FMCG sector are expected to absorb the shock because of surplus production from last year. The situation is also not deemed as bad as the previous year

Farmers may find some respite in the fact that above-normal rainfall in just tilled soil (or even in places where cutting was underway) means high moisture content and better water retention in aerated soil. Thus, farmers can recover loses incurred in this season from a bumper winter produce. However, this does not mean that they do not remain vulnerable. Small and marginal growers typically depend on the income from the previous season to invest in the next crop, and generally diminishing farm incomes mean they have little to no corners to cut. As a result, bad weather generally means that the smaller agrarians are forced to rely on debts to fund the next season's sowing costs.

Small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land account for 86.2 percent of all farmers in India, but own just 47.3 percent of the crop area, according to provisional numbers from the 10th agriculture census 2015-16.

This is not even taking into account the woes of landless farmers who either rent land or work as labourers on petty wages and skewed distribution of net produce and costs incurred.

Thus, even though the situation is not as bad as the previous year when farmers suffered massive losses due to droughts, how well can they sustain in this situation depends a lot on the price support interventions by the government and how speedily insurance claims are settled, Mint reported.

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Updated Date: Oct 10, 2019 17:20:03 IST