By: Pallava Bagla
When Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi meet on Monday, both sides will ensure that nothing casts a cloud on the tremendous significance of the occasion. But, perhaps, when they have their bilateral, there’s one issue they may not wish to defer: the rising El Nino and its spectre of an impending drought across both nations.
Calling for the immediate launch of an India-Pak “joint monsoon observational campaign”, M Rajeevan, who heads India’s Rs 400-crore Monsoon Mission at the Ministry of Earth Sciences, told The Indian Express Sunday that the need for both countries to put their heads together is a scientific imperative, not just a diplomatic one.
For, the monsoon circulation is born in the southern Indian Ocean but its progress and spread depend on how strongly it is pulled northwestwards due to the heating up of the vast landmass over India and Pakistan.
More so this year when Met departments of both countries have forecast a strong El Nino, the name given to the gradual warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean that is expected to adversely affect this monsoon, said Rajeev. And, in the process, the agrarian economies of both nations.
On nine of 17 occasions when the El Nino struck the oceans, it led to a drought in India and Pakistan. The most recent was in 2009 when India saw a 33 per cent shortfall in rains during the monsoon. Other monsoon seasons when the linkage between occurrence of a drought and the rise of El Nino was noticed were 1951, 1965, 1972, 1982, 1986, 1997, 2002, 2004. Never has there been excess rainfall when there has been an El Nino.
All the signs point to a repeat this year, Rajeevan says. Last month, the India Meteorological Department announced that there was “considerable confidence” that an El Nino would happen this year. The Pakistan Met Office agreed too.
This was reinforced last month by the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. In a joint statement, these countries warned of El Nino and its “adverse impact” across the region.