Around 235 districts across the country face the prospect of drought this year as the monsoon appears headed for a below-normal performance, with the season's deficit currently at 6.2% of normal.
These districts, accounting for 37% of the country's 630 districts for which rain data is available.
A majority of the distress districts lie in the hinterland, in a swathe running through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and MP are the hardest hit states, showing rain deficits of 31%, 28% and 25%, respectively .
The deficits have grown gradually since the end of July, when the monsoon started failing in central and north India.The first two months of the season, June and July , ended with a countrywide rain surplus of 2.5%. Monsoon's performance since August 1 has been a dismal 17% below normal (till September 12), with good rainfall being mainly restricted to south and northeast India.
Poor distribution of rainfall has added to the distress. As many as 110 districts have had excess or `large excess' (over 60% of normal) rainfall. In addition, heavy rain spells in Gujarat, Rajasthan and catchment areas in the Himalayas (particularly in Nepal) caused the worst floods in the nation in 10 years. Ironically, states such as UP have seen both flood fury as well as the prospect of drought. The monsoon deficit in west UP stands at 37%, highest for any subdivision in India.
This combination, of poor rains and floods, may hit kharif output, although data till September 8 shows that the sowing area this year is only marginally less than last year's, with the biggest drops seen in oilseeds, pulses and jute. Several state governments have reportedly started drought exercises. Poor rains have affected water storage levels, important for winter crops. According to the Central Water Commission data, live storage at 91 important reservoirs in the country was at 58% of capacity on September 8.