MANGALURU: Come rain or shine, one man’s rainfall updates have a huge following on social media platforms in Dakshina Kannada’s Sullia taluk. Meet avid farmer and rain analyst PGSN Prasad. Prasad has been keeping updates of daily, monthly and average annual rainfall in his region so that farmers can plan their agricultural activity accordingly.
One recent WhatsApp post of Prasad’s on the areca nut farmers’ group reads like this: “35 mm rainfall in Balila. 0.9 mm rainfall during the corresponding period in previous year.” The rainfall figures in millimetres, which Prasad shares with others, is independently sourced from his humble rain gauge — a cylindrical glass jar placed in the backyard of his home in Balila in Sullia taluk.
Every day at 8 am, Prasad meticulously keeps a record of the rain water collected in the cylindrical jars and it’s no passing fad for him. When he is unavailable, his wife or sons pitch in.
Prasad’s 40-year-old hobby dates back to 1976. While studying in SSLC, Prasad was inspired by his father who was a passionate observer and recorder of fluctuations in the monsoon pattern.
“My father P S Govindaiah would make entries of changing weather patterns in his diary,’’ he recollects. Prasad’s vast data on rainfall in Balila village, 80km from Mangaluru, has made him an undisputed authority on rainfall distribution. Based on the data, Prasad says that from 1976 to 2016, the region received 4,468 mm of rainfall. He has it all in his head, as he reels off data about the highs and lows of rain in his taluk.
The district on an average receives rain for 165 days, he says, adding, “But the year 1978 saw 201 days of rain and 1986 saw 144 days, which were an exception.” Prasad made easy-to-read laminated charts to highlight interesting facts, mined from the heap of statistics. “South-west monsoon once made an early entry in Balila on May 20, 1999,’’ he informs reading from the chart.
Prasad also recorded the delayed arrival of monsoon on June 16, 1983. The voluminous data also has given Prasad a rare insight about monsoon phenomenon in the district. “Poor monsoon is a three-year cycle and thus good rains can be expected in 2018. There are some days where there will be no rains and there are days in a calendar year which will receive heavy rains,’’ he says.
The farmer’s rainfall statistics establish a direct link between crop failure and climate change. In 2013, the district received uninterrupted rain for 83 days (the uninterrupted highest rainfall is 120 continuous days in 1978). In the same year, areca nut farmers suffered huge losses with fruit rot disease or ‘Kole roga’ wreaking havoc in vast tracts of areca nut plantations.
Those visiting Prasad’s house are sure to be sensitised about environment and rain water harvesting. According to his calculations, if one millimetre of rainfall is equivalent to one litre of water per square metre, a single monsoon yields 22 barrels, each of 200-litre capacity.
“In my absence, my wife Malini Prasad or my children Vineeth or Vijeeth write down the readings in a book,’’ he informs.
Many farmers, inspired by Prasad, have installed rain gauges under his guidance. “Due to climatic variations, farmers should install such rain gauges for every 3.5 sqm to arrive at accurate rainfall statistics,’’ he adds. The farmer is currently researching for an article on rainfall distribution based on different ‘Nakshatrams’ (positions of stars according to Hindu almanac).
“The passion of observing and documenting rainfall has kept me disciplined. I feel restless when I am not able to observe the readings even for one day. This hobby has ensured that I need not rely on departments (for information),” he says.
Prasad is often asked whether his rainfall figures are similar to statistics compiled by district administration and meteorology department.
His reply is standard: “I may lack in state-of-art technology. But they (institutions) are no match to my passion for observation and compiling data from the grassroot level.’’