Indian monsoon

I had spent two days in Munnar where monsoon was at its best. The descent from the highlands to Coimbatore for the first two to three hours was heavenly. That was on July 8. It became progressively drier and warmer as we reached ground level. Then, all talk in Coimbatore was about how dry and disappointing the monsoon had been.

One of our drivers lamented that, when he was young, he would not be able to ride a scooter without a heavy sweater or jacket beyond 2:30 PM in the afternoon because it used to be so cool due to rains and cooler breezes. Not any more. They used to have a tough time removing the moss or dampness from walls. Not any more. Drawing water from wells used to be about dipping a bucket or a plastic mug without bending too much. Not a fat chance.

A long-standing Pollachi resident told me that this ‘shock’ is probably needed. He said that sowing of rice, without a care in the world, used to happen. Even those who used to think or warn about so much of paddy cultivation with its water intensity were dismissed as fear mongers because, well, Coimbatore and Pollachi were not Ramnad Districts, you see. Now, Ramnad climate has come to Coimbatore! He feels that this is what would make the people of Coimbatore-Pollachi take water conservation seriously and think about what they are cultivating, when and how much.

I am writing so much about Coimbatore because my mother lives there now and I have begun to visit that place. Done so twice this year already. Chennai and Madurai were sweltering. Madurai used to witness cooler months of June and July because of the monsoon in Kerala. Now, this year, Kerala has a shortfall of 23%. That is ‘deficient’ as per IMD in India. The shortfall had reached 24% by July 13. So, the ‘good news’ is that, as of 22nd July 2017, had not worsened! Kerala had a bad SW monsoon in 2015. Data for that are available.¬† See table 12 in page 26 in the link given. Check out Table 26 of the report for State-wise, district-wise, month-wise rainfall data. Data for 2016 are not yet available.

Tamil Nadu is a different story. It had a decent NE monsoon in 2015. Perhaps, quite good for most districts. But, we must remember that it poured on a particular day in December 2015. So, how well temporally distributed the rainfall was is hard to say.

In 2017, Tamil Nadu had a shortfall of 6% by 12th July. It had widened to 19% by 19th July and to 21% by 22nd July. All these figures are for the period 1st June to the respective dates mentioned. You can get these data from the IMD website with a little bit of exploration. They have a weekly weather report and, thanks to my friend Harikiran, I learnt that they have a daily rainfall score card too.

According to the Tamil Nadu State Agricultural Department, the foodgrain production in 2016-17 was estimated at 60.34 lakh tonnes, down from 113.69 lakh tonnes in the previous year. The figure is the ‘fourth advance estimate’ for 2016-17. The news-story is here. So, clearly, 2016 was not a good monsoon year for Tamil Nadu – SW or NE.

Tamil Nadu appears to have had it bad in 2016 and, so far, in 2017, it has not had it good with SW monsoon after what it appeared to be a promising start in June.

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