x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

India's monsoon the wettest in 12 years

The rains have raised hopes of a bumper harvest that may help India curb food prices and revive economic growth from the lowest level in a decade.

NEW DELHI // India has enjoyed its wettest start to the monsoon in at least 12 years.

The country received 216.3 millimetres of rain last month, according to the meteorological department - 32 per cent more than a 50-year average considered normal for the period and the highest since 2001.

The rains raised hopes of a bumper harvest that may help India curb food prices and revive economic growth from the lowest level in a decade.

Agriculture accounts for about a fifth of the economy for the world's second-biggest producer of rice, cotton and sugar cane, but 55 per cent of the farm land does not have access to irrigation.

Widespread rainfall has helped ease a drinking water shortage and relieved crops threatened by the worst drought in four decades in India's western region.

"The start is good and what needs to be watched is July rainfall," said Dharmakirti Joshi, the chief economist at Crisil, the Indian unit of global finance company Standard & Poor's.

"If rainfall is well behaved in July and August, then we can have a good harvest this year."

In northern India last month unusually heavy early rains caused floods and landslides that washed away vehicles, homes and roads and left more than 1,000 dead in Uttarakhand state.

The Uttarakhand chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, announced yesterday that construction along river banks would be banned in the state amid concerns that unchecked development fuelled last month's flash floods and landslides.

Mr Bahuguna also said a regulatory body would be set up to scrutinise future construction as the Himalayan state begins rebuilding after the June 15 floods.

"Permission will not be given for any kind of construction along the river banks," said Mr Bahuguna in the state capital Dehradun.

* Bloomberg News and Agence France-Presse