Friday, August 14, 2009
After having happily reported the arrival of the monsoon in Udaipur in the middle of July, I now realize that other places were not all that lucky.
There are many places in India where the monsoon failed this year, leaving the country with an estimated 13% below average rainfall for this monsoon season and a horrendous 56% below average rainfall for this week alone.
This not only is catastrophe for many farmers, but also reduced crops mean that prices for food grains will rise (and have obviously already started to, up to 10%) and the economy as a whole will suffer. India had an ambitious but realistic 7% economic growth target for this year, which now could be reduced by 1% alone due to the drought (leaving alone the swine flu, global economic crisis etc).
On top of that there are now NASA satellite based estimates of groundwater depletion in North-Western India which show that mainly due to the use of groundwater for irrigation the water level is declining at a really mean rate and will probably cause even more trouble for agriculture and availability of potable water in the future.
So while watching the occasional monsoon shower in Udaipur and a picturesque and full Lake Picchola I keep my fingers crossed for more rains to come and that more sustainable ways to use the available water are found.
Google Earth's got some competition now - from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which today unveiled its beta version of Bhuvan (meaning earth in Sanskrit).
A web-based tool like Google Earth, Bhuvan promises to give better 3-D satellite imagery of India than is currently being offered by the US-based software giant plus a host of India-specific features like weather information and even administrative boundaries of all states and districts.
The application can be downloaded from http://bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in/
The tool would offer pictures of the globe, just like Google Earth, and navigable in the same way but currently has the best resolutions over the Indian sub-continent. It allows users to fly from space to street level, grab, spin and zoom down to any place.
It also provides tools for measuring, drawing, saving, printing and visualizing thematic information. The resolutions currently on offer are good enough to view a vehicle moving on a road quite clearly