x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

India to spend 4 billion rupees on equipment to predict monsoons

The government will invest about 4 billion rupees (Dh264 million) to improve its rain forecast ability, with an emphasis on bi-weekly and monthly predictions as they are considered the most useful for farmers to decide crop sowings.

NEW DELHI // India plans to spend billions of rupees to improve its chances of predicting errant monsoon rains through increased investment in computing and scientific manpower.

"The predictability and variability of monsoon is an issue. We have to address different aspects of it," Shailesh Nayak, the Earth sciences secretary, said yesterday. "It will take some time. Maybe five years to make a definite change in our current capability."

Mr Nayak said the government will invest about 4 billion rupees (Dh264 million) to improve its rain forecast ability, with an emphasis on bi-weekly and monthly predictions as they are considered the most useful for farmers to decide crop sowings.

India has also received proposals from 25 global scientists and universities for a collaboration and a state panel will meet in September to decide on them, he said. "Monsoon is a global phenomenon. We need participation of the global scientific community."

The government has also shortlisted two domestic institutes for partnerships and launched a programme for training 100 scientists over five years with the aim of creating a better scientific model for monsoon prediction.

Monsoon rain forecasts are expected to become more difficult in coming years because of changing weather patterns. Inaccurate forecasts can spell doom for farmers in India as more than 60 per cent of the farmland is rain-fed and 70 per cent of the rainfall is received in the June-September monsoon season. Farmers constitute more than half of the country's workforce.

The state-run India Meteorological Department had predicted normal monsoon rains in the first two forecasts of this year and later revised it to below normal in August, when bulk of the summer crop sowing is usually over.

It had similarly failed to predict a drought at the season's outset in 2009.