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Cities like Bengaluru have been grappling with water shortage, which can be attributed to rain deficiency during last year’s monsoon, a decline in reservoir level, and the loss of lakes due to rapid urbanization.

The depleting water level in the country is attributed to lower rainfall caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, resulting in drought and prolonged dry spells in Asia as the Pacific Ocean warmed. As many as 18 states in the country have witnessed rain deficiency or no rainfall since March. The country has received 8% below-normal rainfall since March, as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

According to data from the Central Water Commission (CWC), the available water level this week in these reservoirs was 61.801 billion cubic meter (BCM), 17% lower than the corresponding period last year when it was 74.47 BCM and 2% lower than the average of last 10 years (63.095 BCM). The live storage available in 150 reservoirs as of Thursday was 83% of the live storage of the corresponding period of the previous year and 98% of storage of average of the past 10 years.

The weather bureau has warned that most regions of the country will witness above-normal temperature during April-June. This prediction, coupled with drying water reservoirs, has prompted agriculture economists warn of an adverse impact on the current rabi crop, especially in southern regions, as well as summer crops in UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

“The lower reservoir levels are estimated to have an adverse impact on the current rabi crop, especially in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu where farmers have reportedly witnessed wilting in case of pulses like Bengal gram and shriveling of grains and cobs in case of paddy and maize respectively. In northern states like UP and Bihar, lower reservoir levels coupled with high temperature are estimated to have adversely impacted wheat and mustard yields,” Pushan Sharma, Director-Research, CRISIL Market Intelligence and Analytics, said.

“In the near term, owing to a prediction of high temperatures over an extended period, summer crop sowing which largely comprises cereals like bajra and maize, pulses like moong, and vegetables like cucurbits and melons are expected to be negatively impacted following lower reservoir levels across key states like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, AP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,” Sharma added.

The situation in southern regions is turning worrisome as the storage in the 42 reservoirs dropped further to 22% of the 53.334 BCM capacity at 10.571 BCM. During the same period a year ago, the level was 34% of the capacity and 28% of the 10 year average, as per the CWC’s latest bulletin issued on Thursday.

Available water in the 26 reservoirs of the central region was at 20.815 BCM, 43% of total live storage capacity of 48.227 BCM. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 47% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 39%.

As far as the eastern region is concerned, water level in 23 reservoirs across Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura, Nagaland and Bihar depleted to 9.242 BCM, 45.24% of total live storage capacity of 20.430 BCM, while that of 49 reservoirs in the western region fell to 14.835 BCM, 40 % of total live storage capacity of f 37.130 BCM. Available water level in key reservoirs of east India a year ago was 40% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 44.94%. Water level in west Indian reservoirs last year during the same time was 47% and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 38% of live storage capacity.

“Despite an increase in irrigation intensity, Indian agriculture has high dependence on rainfall. This is evident from agriculture GVA growth in the December quarter of 2023-24,” Devendra Pant, chief economist at India Ratings, told Mint earlier.

On the assumption of normal rainfall and its spread over space and time across the country during June-September (southwest monsoon), Indian agricultural GVA is expected to grow around 3% in 2024-25, Pant estimated.

GVA growth of agriculture and allied sectors contracted 0.8% in the October-December quarter from 1.6% growth seen in the previous quarter. This is the first time in 19 quarters that farm GVA saw a decline. The growth rate was 5.2% in the year-ago period. In FY23, agriculture GVA growth stood at 4.7%, while in the first quarter of the current financial year it was recorded at 3.5%.


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Published: 04 Apr 2024, 08:25 PM IST

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