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Page added on June 29, 2009

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India wilts as monsoon fears grow


NEW DELHI – India could be staring at an imminent drought. It’s not the delayed national budget, but the specter of a delayed – or, in large measure, denied – monsoon that’s giving everyone sleepless nights. The Indian Meteorological Department has stopped short of baneful predictions in an economically stressful year – mindful of the political implications – but the signs are dire.

It has been a heart-breaking June, with the fabled wet wind from the southwest absent in most regions normally on its itinerary. The northern plains are bone dry, with temperatures regularly touching the mid-40s in centigrade. They are the last port of call for the complex, mobile weather system which usually arrives there in July after drenching the vast swathes of peninsular India in June. But the monsoon has not even kept this date, for a number of reasons.

The monsoon season had an ominous start. In May, a spoiler developed in the Bay of Bengal in the shape of Cyclone Aila. Its low pressure core sucked off huge volumes of moisture from the incipient monsoon system building up off the Arabian Sea coast in the southwest, pouring it down in torrential buckets over the eastern seaboard states of Orissa and West Bengal. The residual moisture was funneled up into India’s northeast, which saw rains a week or so ahead of schedule.

In the southwest and over the peninsula, the delicate monsoon never really recovered. It mostly hovered around the windward areas of the Western Ghats, the Malabar and Konkan coasts proper, as if hesitating to make an ingress into the mainland because it didn’t have enough wind in its sails.

Asia Times



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