Water reserves in the country remained far from normal for nine consecutive weeks through Wednesday and were at alarming levels in the southern region, even as the June-September monsoon season came to an end. The storage as of September 30 dropped 23% from a year before.
According to the data compiled by the ministry of water resources, storage across 91 reservoirs touched 95.69 billion cubic metres (bcm) up to Wednesday, compared with 124.61 bcm a year earlier and also lower than the benchmark 10-year average of 123.65 bcm. The latest storage level is 61% of the total live capacity of these reservoirs, down from that of 79% a year earlier.
The water storage in the southern region, particularly, was just 34% of the capacity, compared with 71% a year before and the normal average of 81%. In Telangana, the water reserves were 83% lower than normal, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which saw the storage falling by 70%, 43% and 43%, respectively, from the benchmark normal levels. Low water reserves may affect the sowing of various rabi crops in parts of these states. Already, the government last month projected a 2% fall in Kharif grain output, although it also targets a 5% rise in the rabi production this year to make up for the dip in the production of summer-sown crops due to a deficient monsoon.
Addressing the rabi conference, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh last week said the country could produce 133 million tonne (MT) in the coming rabi season, compared with 126.38 MT a year before.
If the official projections are proved correct, the grain output in the entire crop year through June 2016 would be 257.05 MT, up 1.7% from a year before, considering that the government has forecast the Kharif production to be 124.05 MT. However, the full-year grain output would still be lower than the record level of 265 MT in 2013-14. The country’s grain output fell almost 4.7% in the last crop year from a year before, as a 12% monsoon deficit had shrunk summer planting while unseasonal rains hit winter crops.