Even as southwest monsoon has finally hit Kerala, the meteorological department’s forecast for Odisha is disquieting as its arrival date has been stretched beyond the second week of June against the normal onset around June 10. The delay notwithstanding, all predictions have harped on less rainfall due to the El Nino factor this year. Rainfall has been projected to be 95 per cent of the long period average, which is explained as a strong possibility of Odisha facing a dry year in 2014. The gloom is painted on the back of surplus rainfall over the last few years when Odisha witnessed increased agriculture productivity. It achieved record food grain production of 11.4 million tonne in 2012-13 and bagged the Krishi Karman award. Riding on high output, the government went ahead setting a target of producing 10 million tonne food grains during the ongoing 2014 kharif season.
But, the Met department estimations and the course of the monsoon as of now do not bode well. Less than normal rainfall, presenting itself in prolonged dry spells, will impact agriculture, consequently on the state’s overall economy. Despite favourable climatic conditions in 2013, erratic rainfall had also run amok in parts causing drought-like situation in many rain shadow areas of Western Odisha, which are still devoid of irrigation facilities.
If the El Nino materialises, the spectre of a more intense drought looms large not only in the un0irrigated regions but also in rain-fed areas. Although predictions of a possible El Nino have come as early as January and its impact is well known with the state undergoing the seventh one in the last two and half decades, the government has failed to draw a strategy to deal with emergent challenges. Now that signs are ominous, the government should initiate an action plan like regulating water for much-needed irrigation, improving storage systems and reducing food grain wastage along with providing immediate relief and alternative inputs to affected farmers.