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Shocking! IMD data shows 125 districts in India grappling with drought

States such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu are among the worst affected. Experts warn of adverse impacts on agriculture, water resources, and rural livelihoods if the dry spell persists or worsens.

Shocking IMD data shows 125 districts in India grappling with drought
First Published Apr 19, 2024, 1:24 PM IST

Not only are vast regions of India experiencing increasingly dry conditions, but approximately 125 districts are also grappling with drought. This concerning trend across the nation has emerged from the data gathered from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in Pune. The latest Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) data from March 14 to April 10, 2024, factoring in temperature impacts on water demand, revealed this distressing situation.

This marks a significant escalation from earlier in March, with a 28 per cent increase in the number of affected districts, now totalling 125 across 23 states and Union Territories. This surge contrasts sharply with 2023 when only 33 districts faced moderate to extreme dryness over a similar period.

The severity of the situation is evident in states like Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and Tamil Nadu. Numerous districts in these states are witnessing dry to extremely dry conditions.

Dr Rajib Chattopadhyay, a senior scientist at the IMD, told the Times of India that these districts have been classified as 'dry' with an SPEI value below -1. The SPEI map illustrates vast swathes of central, western, and southern India in varying shades of yellow, red, and orange, indicative of the severity of dryness. 

These regions are experiencing heightened evapotranspiration rates, a combination of evaporation from the Earth's surface and transpiration from plants.

Experts warn of severe repercussions on agriculture, water resources, and rural livelihoods if the dry spell persists or worsens leading up to the rainy season. Despite localized rainfall from thunderstorms offering some respite, it may not suffice on a large scale due to its sporadic nature.

Although summer typically isn't associated with rainfall, IMD data reveals deficiencies in nearly 21 per cent of districts and significant deficiencies in 19 per cent of districts in pre-monsoon rainfall since March 1. High temperatures exacerbate the situation by accelerating evapotranspiration rates.

The recent aridity anomaly index data by IMD shows that nearly 10 per cent of districts in India are severely arid, posing further challenges for agriculture. These conditions are attributed partly to the lingering effects of El Niño on the monsoon last year and its impact on summer temperatures, evaporation rates, heatwaves, and soil moisture.

Districts such as Surat, Rajkot, Morbi, Junagarh, Jamnagar, and Devbhoomi Dwarka in Gujarat; Kurukshetra and Kaithal in Haryana; and various districts in Kerala and Maharashtra are among those grappling with water stress. The situation underscores the urgent need for effective mitigation strategies to address the burgeoning water crisis across these regions.

Also Read: Air India flight from Kozhikode forced to return from Dubai without disembarking 180 passengers on board

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