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No direct correlation between El Nino and Indian droughts: Study

Since 1950, India has faced 13 droughts and 10 of these were in El Nino years and one in a La Nina year. (Reuters) Since 1950, India has faced 13 droughts and 10 of these were in El Nino years and one in a La Nina year. (Reuters)
Published on:June 20, 2014 12:40 pm

As the country closely monitors the impact of El Nino phenomenon on the progress of the south-western monsoon, which has remained below normal so far, a working paper which has created an India-specific El Nino index, has said that historically, all rainfall deficit years in India have not led to drought-like conditions. This is despite the fact that all drought years have been El Nino years.

“Looking at the relation between El Nino and Indian droughts since 1950, it is observed that India faced 13 droughts and 10 of these were in El Nino years and one in a La Nina year. This indicates there may not be a one-to-one correspondence between El Nino and Indian droughts,” the paper by Ashok Gulati and Shweta Saini of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has stated.

El Nino is a phenomenon where surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean rise above average for several months, which happens with irregular periodicity. It is associated with changes in wind patterns and impacts weather in parts of the world, including India. During La Niña, sea surface temperature across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Oce-an will be lower than normal.

The paper, titled ‘El Nino and Indian Droughts: A Scoping Exercise’ also noted that “since 1980, all six droughts faced by India were in El Nino years but still not all El Nino years led to drought in the country’. However it stated that in the last 14 years, which saw four El Nino years globally, three resulted in Indian droughts. Comparing with the global impact of El Nino on India, the paper noted that since 1950s, there were 23 global El Nino years, of which 13 were Indian drought years.

“Overall, the analysis proves that since the 1980s, only El Nino years converted into droughts for our country. However, a La Nina year does not guarantee better-than-normal rains and similarly an El Nino year does not always translate into below-normal rains,” it said.

The paper also stated that as El Nino phenomenon may hit in the second half of the monsoon season in 2014, factors such as favourable water reservoir levels, and high stocks of grains with the government may offer relief to farmers and consumers. “In the short run, government can liquidate excessive buffer stocks of grains in the open market, cut down import tariffs on fruits and vegetables, skimmed milk powder and chicken legs etc, to contain potential abnormal price increases, in case it turns out to be a drought year,” it noted. For mitigating the impact, the paper suggested creation of a dedicated fund of around R5000 crore towards insurance or income stabilisation of farmers likely to …continued »

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