Editorial

Monsoon, or later

  • Nepal needs more accurate data on rainfall patterns and better forecasts

Jun 14, 2017-

For Nepalis, monsoon brings with it mixed feelings. While it brings joy to the hearts of our farmers and provides much-needed relief from summer’s sweltering heat to most of us, it can also be a source of mayhem. With monsoon come flash floods and landslides. Tarai districts see rivers bursting their banks and rice crops being destroyed.

Monsoon will arrive late this year. According to the Meteorological Forecasting Division (MFD), this year’s monsoon has been delayed due to a low pressure system in the Bay of Bengal, which has prevented the rain-carrying winds from blowing towards the north and the west.

Although a delay in the monsoon by only a few days may not have big repercussions, it will be a cause of worry for farmers who have already planted paddy. Because cultivated rice is highly sensitive to water shortages, a longer delay will greatly affect paddy production and will be a matter of huge concern. Rice is Nepal’s most important crop and its contribution to the agriculture sector, and to the economy, is significant. As much as two-thirds of Nepal’s cultivable land is rain-fed. It is largely due to a good monsoon that paddy production jumped by 21.66 percent to 5.23 million tonnes this fiscal year, putting a 23-year-high economic growth rate of 6.9 percent within reach.

Another immediate impact of delayed rains is that parts of the country have had little respite from scorching heat. Last week, the Kanchanpur District Education Office (DEO), in far western Tarai, had to announce a four-day closure of schools, many of which have classrooms with corrugated iron-sheet roofs. Earlier in the month, the maximum temperature in Kanchanpur was recorded at 41.5 degree Celsius, possibly the highest this year. Soaring temperatures have also caused a slowdown in market activities and public movement across the Tarai. As such, rains will undoubtedly come as a godsend.

However, it cannot be forgotten that vagaries of monsoon can wreak havoc on many Nepalis. Floods are part of the country’s annual cycle; they take lives, damage properties and ruin livelihoods. But more than the natural disaster itself, it’s the weak infrastructure and lack of preparations that cause more damage. So investment in flood preparedness holds the key.

Despite their potential for damage, rains are a lifeline for our largely agrarian economy. The monsoon months, June to September, bring 80 percent of Nepal’s annual rainfall of 1,600mm. Still there are great gaps in our knowledge about monsoon and farmers rarely get useful predictions about it. As recently as last week, the MFD had predicted that the monsoon would arrive earlier than normal time this year and now it is saying it is going to be late. Given the enormous impact of monsoon, the need for more accurate data on rainfall patterns and better forecasts is urgent.

Published: 14-06-2017 08:09

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