Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday warned that the country was facing the biggest drought of the century as a delayed and deficient monsoon continues to adversely affect agriculture in several parts of the country.
The Finance Minister, however, assured that there was no need to panic as the government was taking adequate steps to meet the situation.
Expressing concerns over the situation, Pranab said that the severe drought will also affect the country's economic growth, which is expected to be below 6% this year.
The warning from the Finance Minister comes at a time when as many as 161 districts have been declared drought-hit across the country.
Pranab's warning assumes significance in the wake of a report by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) that the average monsoon rainfall has been deficient by 25% in the country for the monsoon period June 1 to August 5. The IMD report also said that the shortfall has been far higher in traditional breadbasket states like Punjab and Haryana.
PM reviews drought situation
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended a high-level meeting including 13th Finance Commission Chairman Vijay Kelkar and Planning Commission Secretary Sudha Pillai to discuss the drought situation in different parts of the country.
The meeting holds importance as the government is planning to provide more resources to states to battle the impact of poor monsoon on kharif (summer crop) and spiralling prices of essential food items.
The Prime Minister has also urged the state governments to draw up contingency plans to deal with the situation without delay.
The Prime Minister also offered all assistance to the states from the Central government to deal with the situation and said the government "should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market" if the need arises.
The PM, during a recent meeting with the chief secretaries, had advised the state governments to seek more assistance from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) to deal with the drought situation.
While the Planning Commission is involved in allocation of resources towards Plan schemes, the Finance Commission, which is a constitutional body, deals with distribution of taxes, collected by the Centre, among states.
The Finance Commission is expected to submit its report to the government by October end for the five-year period beginning April 1, 2010.
1. Wash your hands frequently
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4. Boost your immune system
Keeping your body strong, nourished, and ready to fight infection is important in flu prevention. So stick with whole grains, colorful vegetables, and vitamin-rich fruits.
5. Keep informed
The government is taking necessary steps to prevent the pandemic and periodically release guidelines to keep the pandemic away. Please make sure to keep up to date on the information and act in a calm manner.
6. Avoid alcohol
Apart from being a mood depressant, alcohol is an immune suppressant that can actually decrease your resistance to viral infections like swine flu. So stay away from alcoholic drinks so that your immune system may be strong.
7. Be physically active
Moderate exercise can support the immune system by increasing circulation and oxygenating the body. For example brisk walking for 30-40 minutes 3-4 times a week will significantly perk up your immunity.
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Three villages in the hilly Pithoragarh district were swept away in the landslide after a cloudburst on Saturday, local police official M.S. Sathnam said.
Seventeen bodies have so far been recovered, he said, with rescue efforts on Saturday by local emergency personnel and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police hampered by bad weather.
"It has stopped raining now, and rescue work is underway in full swing," he said.
The breakthrough is the development of a high performance electronic device, known as a dual polarized Frequency Selective Surface filter, that is to be used in future European Space Agency (ESA) missions.
The filters will be installed in instruments being developed by ESA for meteorological satellites it plans to launch between 2018 and 2020.
The ESA instruments are used to detect thermal emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere.
The data measures temperature, humidity profiles, and gas composition, which are in turn entered into operational systems and used to forecast weather and pollution.
According to lead ECIT engineer Raymond Dickie, “Measuring just 30mm in diameter and 1/100mm thick, the devices will help to provide a much more comprehensive analysis of conditions in the Earth’s atmosphere than has been possible previously.”
“Up to now, spaceborne remote sensing instruments have only been capable of separating either the vertically or horizontally polarized components of naturally occurring thermal emissions from gases in the Earth’s atmosphere – but not both together at the same time,” he added.
“The invention of the new filter resolves this problem and will enable complex imaging of clouds to be undertaken for the first time at very short wavelengths,” he explained.
Global patent applications have already been filed for the filters which are constructed by ECIT engineers and research staff at Queen’s University’s Northern Ireland Semiconductor Research Centre in Belfast.
“As a result of the new filter, scientists will gain access to completely new data on a range of phenomenon including ozone depletion and the size of water particles in cirrus clouds, Robert Cahill, a member of the project team added.
“This in turn will enable more accurate global weather forecasts to be compiled and will provide important new insights into climate change,” he said. (ANI)
MRIDUL SAGGAR, chief economist, Kotak Securities Ltd
“In our view, the base case now looks at overall rainfall deficiency of about 20-25% during the full monsoon season, as the El Nino effect may keep rainfall subdued in the weeks ahead. As a result, value added in agriculture may contract by 8% and with some spillover to other sectors, it may pare India’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 1.7% from 6.5% under normal monsoon assumptions. We now expect India’s real GDP to grow by only 4.8% in FY2010.”
TUSHAR PODDAR, vice-president and chief economist, Goldman Sachs
“We estimate that the lower rainfall projections will likely lead to negative agricultural growth. We retain our FY10 GDP growth forecast of 5.8%, and think that consensus forecasts of 6.3%, and the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council’s forecast of 7% looks a bit rich. We think this will have a significant negative impact on rural demand. As food prices go up, this will also impact non-food consumption.”
MANOJ VOHRA, director of research at the Economist Intelligence Unit
“Deficient monsoon is a cause of concern because it will impact rural demand adversely. However, looking at the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of the country, it will not prove to be a big drag on growth.”
MADAN SABNAVIS, chief economist, National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange of India
“The way monsoon has played truant with late arrival and low average precipitation overall kharif (summer) crop will be negatively affected. Rice, groundnut and sugarcane will be particularly affected. And since kharif contributes 60% to the total crop production, GDP is bound to be affected. However, it has also been seen whenever kharif has not performed, Rabi (winter) crop has compensated for the loss. So, I feel the impact of GDP will not be as high as is being thought of.”
In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, 58 of the 71 districts have been declared drought-hit.
"Possibilities of widespread rainfall are very low. As the trough line passing from the state has turned weak, the system responsible for cloudiness and rains has also weakened," said state Met office director J.P. Gupta.
The forecast by the weather department is that the chances of a monsoon revival will remain bleak for at least five-six days more. Right now, rainfall in the state this monsoon is 57 percent below average.
In Uttar Pradesh, the monsoon season is from June 15 to Sep 30. This means the monsoon has already crossed the halfway mark. So far the monsoon has brought only 195.7 mm rain.
Western Uttar Pradesh has been the worst hit. It has had 139.6 mm of rain till July 31, compared to the average of 403.6 mm.
Eastern Uttar Pradesh has recorded 234.3 mm rainfall, which is 53 percent below the average of 484.4 mm.
Rampur district has recorded 89 percent below-average rainfall, Etah 86 percent below average, Chitrakoot 85 percent below, Mau 83 percent and Mainpuri 81 percent.
There is not a single district in the state where rainfall has been above average.
State capital Lucknow has received its lowest rainfall in two decades. From June 1 to July 31, Lucknow recorded 192.3 mm rainfall against the average of 357.9 mm for this period.
In Allahabad, rainfall so far has been 53 percent below average, and in Varanasi 48 percent below average.
Scanty rainfall in most parts of the state will hit agricultural production leading to a shortage of rice, according to a government report.
According to the report prepared by the state agriculture department, the worst hit would be paddy yield, which is expected to decline by about 60 percent this year.
Last year's paddy output was about 13.1 million tonnes. The report states that this year's output is likely to be reduced to just around six million tonnes because of scanty rainfall.
Maize production is also expected to fall from 1.15 million tonnes to 900,000 tonnes.
August usually provides nearly 30 per cent of the monsoon rainfall. Poor rains in the opening days of this month have pushed the seasonal deficit for the country as a whole to 25 per cent. If the rains fail to pick up this month, a bad situation could become a whole lot worse. Northwestern India has already been badly hit, with the rainfall deficit now standing at 40 per cent. It is from this region that the monsoon starts its withdrawal, a process that often begins in early September and then extends gradually to the rest of the country. So the rains in August will have a huge impact on this region. A poor monsoon no longer brings with it the spectre of famine but droughts have been shown to significantly reduce foodgrain production and the GDP. There has been a sharp drop in paddy cultivation this monsoon. “In no case should we allow our citizens to go hungry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proclaimed at the recent conference of State Chief Secretaries. At a time like this, with a crisis looming, it is imperative that the central and State governments set aside their differences and work in unison for the common good.