Karnataka is the second most arid state, but this year even rain rich parts have seen monsoon deficit

Theres a reason why experts are calling the Karnataka drought this year uniquePixabay. Image for representational use only
news Saturday, August 29, 2015 - 13:12

The northern regions of Karnataka are known to be arid regions, but in one of the worst droughts the state has seen in the last 40 years, even some of the rain rich parts of the state have been declared drought-hit.

Karnataka is the second most arid state after Rajasthan, but this year’s monsoons have been so poor, even in regions which normally see heavy rainfall, have seen significant deficit, says Srinivas Reddy, Director of Karnataka State National Disaster Monitoring Cell (KSNDMC).

“What is unique about this year’s drought is that even the Malnad and coastal regions, which are usually known for their high rainfall, have been hit by drought. The rainfall in the coastal region has dropped by more than 25% of the normal,” Reddy told The News Minute.

A part of Karnataka’s coffee belt – Chikmaglur district – has also been declared drought hit, and the coastal regions are in the waitlist.

At a time when there has been a spate of farmers suicides in the state, the Karnataka government has had to declare 126 taluks in 26 districts as drought-hit and is considering raising that number to 150 taluks (there are totally 177 taluks in the state) on account of a monsoon deficit of around 63 percent, leading to meteorological drought in several parts of the state.

Reddy said that all 12 districts of north Karnataka had been declared drought as rainfall in the region this year is 46 percent of what was normally recorded. (Normal rainfall is calculated as the average rainfall of the last 50 years).

According to a report in The New Indian Express, rainfall in July was the lowest in 40 years and overall rainfall until the third week of August was also the lowest since 2000. This time, the situation is worse than it was in 2004 or 2012. Here's how the government declares drought

Explaining the classification criteria, he said that apart from the five indicators given by the government, the KSNDMC also considered another connected indicator – the effect of poor rains on agriculture. He said that when sowing was less than 50 percent of the target and when more than 33 percent of the sown crop had been damaged in an area because of low rainfall, the region was likely to be declared drought hit.

However, drought is declared only if the region meets three or more of the criteria. “If they qualify one or two of them then we keep the area or district in wait-list. We keep track of the area.”

One of the reasons for the failure of the monsoons is the effect of El-Nino, according to a KSNDMC scientist quoted by The New Indian Express.

Rainfall measurement

In order to gauge whether the monsoons in any year are good or bad scientists cross-check the current years rainfall data with that from 45 years prior to that year, Reddy said.

“We must calculate the trend of the rainfall from June to July end or August 15. Based on the amount of rainfall recorded for the same corresponding period in the last 45 years we decide whether it has become worse.” Reddy said.

Effect on agriculture

Reddy told The News Minute that although sowing of pules had been “excellent” because of very good pre-monsoon rainfall from January to end of May, the sown crops have been affected by the dry spell in the June, July and August.

Water in reservoirs

Reddy says that the monsoon deficit had meant poor in-flows into the water reservoirs. “The worst affected are the major reservoirs, Supa and Liganmakki reservoirs, where the water levels have come down to 44 percent (of capacity) because of the scarcity in rainfall,” he says, adding that this would have a cascading effect on hydel power generation, and may lead to a power crisis as well.

As of August 26, TNIE reports that storage at the Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir was at 52 percent of its capacity of 49.83tmfct. Similarly, Almatti dam currently stores 58 percent of its full capacity of 123.08 tmcft. Both reservoirs had higher levels of water last year.

Hydrological drought

Kolar, Chikballapur and Bengaluru Rural districts are facing hydrological drought i.e. if the utilization of groundwater exceeds recharge, Reddy says. These over-exploited areas are showing drought-like conditions as they depend on the surplus – YOU MEAN SURFACE? water bodies or tanks which are presently not getting enough water. This has worsened the drinking water scarcity in these regions.