As we battle the heat reaching out for lemon juice and coconut water, the Central Government declared drought in eight states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Centre has also announced a relief fund of INR 24,000 core to the affected States in April to cope with the scorch days.
Deficient rainfall was predicted for Kerala by weather forecast agency Skymet. Earlier the Central government had sanctioned additional employment above 100 days per household under the rural job scheme in Kerala. Kerala Disaster Management Authority had recommended declaration of drought in all districts of Kerala in view of deficit in South West Monsoon.
In view of drought being declared in all 14 districts, the State Government had written to the Union Ministry of Rural Development to permit Kerala to provide up to 150 days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Tinku Biswal, Secretary of the Department of Water Resources, Kerala says, “Because of insufficient rains from North West and South West monsoons, places like Wamanapuram, Malappuram and Palghat are reeling under terrible drought. And therefore, the focus will be on these areas. The Water Authority has already been granted INR 40 crores and the Ground Water Department has been granted INR 12.8 crores fund for relief. We have also started implementing activities like deepening of irrigation canals and placing more pumps where needed for proper diversion. This is the worst kind of scarcity in a really long time. There’s been a shortfall off 38% from the South West rains itself. The dams too, have been affected because of this. There’s lack of drinking water in certain areas. Sashtamkota-Kallada canals have already been linked. Now, the focus has to be on areas like Malappuram, Palghat and Kasargod.”
The state that views water as an entitlement, is facing the worst drought in 115 years according to reports by the Meteorology department. The state government had come up with a contingency plan like rainwater harvesting, rejuvenation of ponds and protecting wetlands, monitoring water wastage and illegal connections.
CM, Pinarayi Vijayan in November 2016, suggested that he wanted to try out cloud seeding to stimulate rainfall. The decision had come from reports of successful cloud-seeding carried out in the UAE. States like Maharashtra and Karnataka have previously implemented cloud seeding successfully. With drinking water becoming scarce, the government was also keen to try other options like desalinising sea water. Cloud seeding or the method of stimulating precipitation by ‘seeding’ clouds with chemicals like silver iodide, dry ice or potassium iodide has been previously tried out in Kerala, but was unsuccessful. It was tried out previously in ’89 and ’94.
Poor conservation and usage of rainwater has been stated by experts as one of the main reasons for acute water shortage that the State is currently facing. The Kochi Post had reported on the water supply and usage of the State and studied the water shortage in December. In 2012, when the Malappuram region faced drought-like situation, 516 minor check dams were built which ensured retention of water and recharge of surrounding open wells. Despite repeated messages by authorities, there seems to be very less follow ups when it comes to rain water conservation or less wastage of drinking water.
In February this year, a campaign creating drought awareness was planned. Called ‘Respect Water, Reduce Drought’, the plan of the campaign was to point out the importance to use water judiciously. With many parts of the state facing acute water shortage, here’s hoping that this drought is truly a one-time situation.
Cover image courtesy: By Dipu tr, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons