An inland delta of five converging rivers, Punjab is the largest agriculture capital of India. The weather of Punjab thus plays an important role with its effect on the agro industry and has a profound effect on the economic development of a region. Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy and about 65% of Indian population depends directly on agriculture and it accounts for around 22% of its GDP and agriculture derives its importance from the fact that it works on a vital supply and demand rule. It has also a great bearing on the social and cultural activities of the people.
Weather in Punjab in India is characterized by extreme hot and extreme cold conditions. Annual temperatures in Punjab range from 2 to 40°C (min/max), but can reach up to 47°C (117°F) in summer and 0°C in the winter season. Punjab is the ‘Granary of India’ as it is the largest producer of wheat in India and a major producer of rice and potato too. But falling fertility of the soil and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides over the years has put the agro industry into trouble and has raised various questions on its effect on the economy of India in the long run. Another worry that has been noticed is the rapidly falling water table on which almost 90% of the agriculture depends; alarming drops have been witnessed in recent years. By some estimates, groundwater is falling by a meter or more per year. The late onset of the monsoons in 2012 has already had an adverse affect on kharif crop production in the entire country. This then led to the late sowing of winter crops in Punjab.
Seeing the change in the weather of Punjab this year, scientists and agriculturists are already raising concerns about whether the 161 lakh hectare production target of wheat in Punjab in India will be achieved or not. To make matters worse, there are also chances of ground frost as the weather in Punjab in January 2013 could be freezing as temperatures could fall below 2⁰C. Earlier in the year, the weather in Punjab remained dry because of very little rain; a rain deficit of 69% was recorded by end of June. Skymet weather has already forecasted no rain for Punjab for the coming week because of a weak ‘Western Disturbance’. If this happens, the critical need of water for the wheat crop will have to be fulfilled by the water left in the reservoirs which too is only 60%. This CRI (crown root initiation) stage due to less water, plus the raised MSP (minimum support price) of wheat by the government, has already forced the poor farmers to change to other crops next year.
Scientist and Doctor at Skymet Weather, NVK Chakravarty, says “the government should further raise knowledge and information on the weather in Punjab and other major agricultural states of India, to not just help the destitute farmer who depends on rain and suitable weather every year to sow his crop, but also to help India as a country to grow economically and socially to be at par with other developed nations”. He also adds, “The only way this could be done is by promoting private weather companies, other than the India Metrological Department as well to provide more accurate weather data”.
Photo by CIDSE.