El Nino, which leads to prolonged dry periods and droughts in Asia, continued to affect India where storage in water reservoirs continued to decline for the 31st week in a row. Data from the Central Water Commission showed that the level in the 150 major reservoirs dropped to 27 per cent of the 178.784 billion cubic metres (BCM) capacity at 47.658 BCM. 

According to the CWC’s weekly bulletin on live storage status of the 150 reservoirs in the country, the level in 117 of the storages was below 40 per cent of the capacity and lower than 50 in another 19.

Deficient rainfall

El Nino, which emerged in June 2023, has led to deficient south-west and north-east monsoon besides winter and pre-monsoon precipitation. According to the India Meteorological Department, 51 per cent of the 710 districts from where data have been received got no or deficient rainfall between March 1 and May 8. Winter rains during January-February were deficient in over 50 per cent of the country. 

According to the National Centres for Environmental Information, an arm of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 26.5 per cent of Indian regions were under drought in March. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has declared that El Nino has ended but other global weather agencies have not announced its end. The low storage is likely to hurt India’s zaid or summer sowing. 

S-W monsoon delay?

The timely planting of the key kharif season may also be delayed as the Myanmar Meteorological Department has said the setting in of the monsoon may be delayed. Though global weather agencies have said La Nina, which brings rains and floods, will emerge during June-August, drying storages will be a cause for concern until the south-west monsoon emerges. 

The pointer to the worrisome situation can be summed up from the CWC’s weekly bulletin which showed the storage was 79 per cent of the capacity a year ago and the average during the past 10 years is 92 per cent. 

Bihar’s sole reservoir Chandan Dam has gone dry along with another half a dozen of the major reservoirs. Apart from Bihar, the Bhima (Ujjani) dam in Maharashtra, the Nagarajuna Sagar reservoir — which is common for Telangana and Andhra —,  the Yeluru reservoir in Andhra Pradesh, the Priyadarshini Jurala and Kaddam (KNR) dams in Telangana and the Tattihalla reservoir in Karnataka hold no water at all. 

The situation in the southern region continued to cause concern with the level dropping to 15 per cent of the capacity with the storage in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, in particular, plunging to 7 per cent of the capacity. 

Western region storage down to 28%

In Tamil Nadu, the storage was 46 per cent lower than usual, while in Karnataka it was 24 per cent below normal. The storage in the 10 reservoirs of the northern region dropped below 30 per cent of the capacity this week to 29 per cent of 19.663 BCM capacity to 5.759 BCM. The level in Punjab was 26 per cent lower than usual. 

In the western region, too, the level declined below 30 per cent to 28 per cent of the 37.130 BCM capacity in its 49 reservoirs to 10.339 BCM. In Maharashtra, the storage was 21 per cent below normal. 

In the eastern region’s 23 reservoirs, the storage was 34 per cent of the 20.430 BCM at 6.952 BCM. The level was better than the 31 per cent last year, the bulletin said. The storage in West Bengal was 21 per cent lower than normal. 

In the Central region’s 26 reservoirs, the storage slipped to 35 per cent of the 48.227 BCM capacity at 16.687 BCM. The water level in Uttar Pradesh was 21 per cent below normal and in Chhattisgarh, it was 26 per cent lower than usual.