India Must Not Ignore El Nino Warnings - The New Indian Express

India Must Not Ignore El Nino Warnings

Published: 26th March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 26th March 2014 01:44 AM

El Nino, which means “little boy” in Spanish, is a natural phenomenon that cannot be wished away. It raises temperature in parts of Pacific Ocean with adverse consequences for agriculture-dependent nations in South Asia. It can result in floods and droughts in the sub-continent. Scientists from Australia to the US have been warning India that wind directions in the Pacific Ocean suggest the formation of El Nino. Indian meteorologists have not taken the warnings seriously, as they have reason to believe it is an attempt to create scare among people and, thereby, adversely impact the commodity and stock markets. There may be some truth in their fear but that is no argument against ignoring the possibility of El Nino.

India should be prepared to face El Nino at any cost. There is no disputing that the country experienced its adverse effects in 2002 and 2004. The “driest monsoon” India faced in 2009, when the prices of essential commodities increased substantially, was also the result of El Nino. In no case should the government allow the people to be jolted by El Nino. Agriculture in India is still dependent on the rain God and that makes El Nino more dreadful. Contingency plans should be in place to meet any eventuality. If necessary, crops which need less water than rice and wheat need to be encouraged for which seeds will have to be procured and distributed well in time.

Timely warning to farmers can avert conditions of panic. Traders of commodities should not be allowed to hoard foodgrains and make huge profits. The public distribution system should be strengthened and kept ready to meet any eventuality from heavy floods to droughts. Last year the satellite-based weather forecasting was so good that a tsunami-like phenomenon passed off with little effect on the daily lives of millions in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. India needs to be equally vigilant on El Nino. It is better to be cautious than negligent.

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