The winds of climate change are changing the fortunes of Indian farmers

The winds of climate change are changing the fortunes of Indian farmers
Sowing season has begun in NagpurBCCL
  • Monsoon 2022 has been behaving erratically ever since its onset.
  • From being expected a week early with a thumping start, Monsoon made a near timely beginning on May 29, that too on a weak note.
  • While it picked up in June, the number of dry days have increased and rainy days have decreased.
  • The winds have also changed their patterns in India, leading to delayed monsoon.
  • Here is how the monsoon is developed in India and how it progresses through the country every year.
Indian monsoons have been erratic to say the least. While Assam received too much of it, Jharkhand has received around half of what it’s due.

What has caused this? The easterly winds that bring monsoon to Northwest India have been absent in June – leading to a dry spell in North India. Instead of bringing these rains to the North, the clouds drifted to Northeast India, leading to floods.

“Easterly winds, which are responsible for bridging monsoon rains, have been completely absent so far in June. We are witnessing southwesterly winds, which have taken rains from Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand to Northeast India,” said Dr R K Jenamani, senior scientist, National Weather Forecast Division, India Meteorological Department (IMD).

IMD is not expecting the easterly winds for the next 3-4 days, which Dr Jenamani said, is a cause for worry.

“The intensity and duration of extreme weather events are increasing on account of climate change. What happened in Northeast India is an example of the same. Monsoon rainfall variability is very high as we can see that northwestern plains, along with central and southern states are deficit by large margins, while northeastern regions are in large surplus,” added Dr Jenamani.
The winds of climate change are changing the fortunes of Indian farmers


Delayed rainfall affects cropping patterns, agricultural output

As per a World Meteorological Organization report released in 2020, India lost more than $89.7 billion due to disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts.

A small change in monsoon patterns has a ripple effect on various industries, including agriculture.

“A 1% change in monsoon rainfall will result in 0.34% change in India's agriculture-driven GDP that year. A normal monsoon can increase GDP from the transport, storage, trade and communication sector by 1% and 3% in the agri-dominated states,” said Abinash Mohanty, programme lead, risks and adaptation, Council for Energy Environment and Water.

Around 60% of India’s population depends on agriculture and the season of monsoon is absolutely crucial for the country’s growth.

As wind patterns change, the power sector which has been betting on renewables to fill the gap in coal-based power generation – will face another shocker too.

“Our electricity generation can decrease by 13% in case of a weakened monsoon. Hydroelectric power constitutes 40% of the power sources that can also be impacted. These numbers are a concern but we need to build resilience through systems, technology and financial innovations,” said Mohanty.

Rice cultivation season in trouble

The monsoon period coincides with the sowing season for India’s main cropping season named Kharif, for rice cultivation. Over 40% of the sown area of India is still dependent on rain-fed irrigation and delayed rainfall directly affects the stage of the crop and the whole agricultural cycle.

The delayed monsoon has already triggered alterations in the sowing windows.

“Monsoon deficiency is further going to increase pressure on food prices going up, which are already high. We need to build capacity to produce rather than worrying about the food security chains,” said Agriculture trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma.

The world is only expected to get hotter in the coming years and the climate smart technology must be in sync with agriculture — which accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to assess what could be best fit for climate resilience. Disaster relief is a major component we need to work on with extreme weather events on rise,” said Sharma.