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India Facing First Drought in Three Years

  • VOA News

An farmer shows a dry, cracked paddy field in Ranbir Singh Pura 34 kilometers from Jammu, India, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.

An farmer shows a dry, cracked paddy field in Ranbir Singh Pura 34 kilometers from Jammu, India, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012.

India is facing its first drought in three years, with this year's monsoon rains down by nearly 20 percent.

In a report issued late Thursday, the Indian Meteorological Department said more than half of India has received deficient rainfall between June and August of this year. Portions of the country's northwest, including key food-producing states such as Punjab, have been hit particularly hard by drought-like conditions.

Department head, Laxman Singh Rathore, told reporters Friday that the outlook for the rest of the monsoon season is not looking up. He said, "quantitatively, rainfall for the entire country as a whole during the period August to September is likely to be 91 percent of the long period average."

Monsoon rains provide water for more than half of India's crops, and many farmers have been relying on underground pumps to irrigate their land. Their use of diesel fuel- powered generators to power the pumps has contributed to increased electricity demands nationwide, with power grids struggling to keep up. Earlier this week, two grid failures left hundreds of millions without power in India.

India's Farm Minister Sharad Pawar and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh toured farms in the western state of Gujarat on Friday to assess the drought situation. Pawar said the federal government will take appropriate action to respond to states' demands for more irrigation facilities and electricity connections.

A poor monsoon season and subsequent drought could further hurt the Indian economy, which is already dealing with high inflation and slow growth. The government has said it will review its export rules for farm goods next month. India is the world's second largest producer of wheat, rice and sugar. Low production could prompt a ban on exports.
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