India had a deficit monsoon in 13 of the last 18 years

The country had its last surplus monsoon in 2013

By Kiran Pandey, Rajit Sengupta
Published: Monday 01 October 2018
Deficit Monsoon 2018
Credit: Getty Images Credit: Getty Images

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecast a normal monsoon this year. However, this year’s monsoon, which ended on September 30, saw a 9.4 per cent deficit in rainfall. Not just that, 2018 was also the fifth consecutive year to register deficit monsoon. Eight states in India received deficient rainfall this year, says IMD. Out of these, four states are in the North East (Arunachal, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura), three in Eastern India (West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar) and Gujarat in the central India.     

In fact, deficit monsoon has become chronic with 13 of the last 18 years witnessing below-normal rains. The period also saw seven drought years—2002, 2004, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The poor monsoon showers are already taking a toll on the country’s groundwater levels. Some recent research papers show that this is affecting India’s crop productivity. Calling the deficits a “cause of concern”, the recently released Envi-Stat 2018 says that monsoon accounts for 67 per cent of the total annual replenishable groundwater resource, which is 447 billion cubic metres (BCM), the sum of recharge during monsoon and non-monsoon seasons.

Southwest Monsoon and Annual Rainfall along with departure 
Year Rainfall  (mm) % Departure
2000 798.1 -10%
2001 818.8 -8%
2002 700.5 -21%
2003 902.9 2%
2004 807.1 -9%
2005 874.3 -1%
2006 889.3 0%
2007 943 6%
2008 877.8 -1%
2009 698.3 -21%
2010 911.1 3%
2011 901.3 2%
2012 823.9 -7%
2013 937.4 6%
2014 781.7 -12%
2015 765.8 -14%
2016 864.4 -3%
2017 887.5 -5%
2018 804 -9.40%
Source: Envi Stats India-2018

Groundwater is mainly used for irrigation. According to latest estimates of the Ground Water Resources of India, irrigation, alone, uses around 228 BCM of groundwater. In comparison, industrial and domestic uses together account for another 25 BCM.

India's dependency on its groundwater is steadily increasing, says State of India’s Environment in Figures 2018. In 2013, the country used 62 per cent of the net available annual groundwater, up from 58 per cent in 2004. The highest dependency can be seen in four north Indian states—Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi—where the annual groundwater consumption is more than the annual groundwater recharge.

Since agriculture in India is dependent on irrigation, unsustainable abstraction of groundwater resources is reducing country’s cultivated land. With more extraction of groundwater, the depth to water level increases and the water table moves downward. This has also increased the dependence on deep tube wells for irrigation. According to the fifth minor irrigation Census carried out by the Union Water Resources Ministry, deep tube wells have grown rapidly from 0.5 million in 2000-01 to more than 2.6 million in 2013-14.

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