NEW DELHI • India's annual monsoon, which delivers about 70 per cent of the country's rainfall, officially arrived on the coast of southern Kerala state yesterday, a week later than usual, the weather office said.
The delay has had a big impact on farmers and millions of Indians this year, as an ongoing heatwave has sent temperatures soaring across the country and dried up reservoirs.
Monsoons are the lifeblood of India's US$2.5 trillion (S$3.4 trillion) economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, and motorcycles to refrigerators.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in April that India, where half of the farmland lacks irrigation, would likely receive average monsoon rains this year.
Water is typically scarce in the summer months, but the situation has been particularly grim this year in the western and southern states, which received below-average rainfall in the 2018 monsoon season.
Depleting reservoirs have even forced some municipalities in places like Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad to cut supplies to ensure water lasts until the arrival of the monsoons.
Percentage of India's rainfall that the country's annual monsoon delivers.
The monsoon usually covers half of the country in the first 15 days. The rains reach central India's soya bean areas by the third week of June and western cotton-growing areas by the first week of July.
After a wet spell, sowing of summer-sown crops gets off to a strong start, boosting crop yields and output, which, in turn, raises rural incomes and usually lifts consumer spending in India.
Good rains will spur the planting of crops such as rice, corn, cane, cotton and soya beans.
However, higher production could lower crop prices, a major cause for concern in rural India in the past few years.
The weather bureau declares the arrival of monsoon rains only after measures - including consistency of rainfall over a defined geography, intensity, cloudiness and wind speed - are met.
It defines average rainfall as between 96 per cent and 104 per cent of a 50-year average of 89cm for the four-month season from June.
Monsoon rains cannot come soon enough and will bring urgent relief to large areas scorched by the heatwave.
A troop of monkeys died from suspected heatstroke as soaring temperatures that have lasted more than a week take a mounting toll on people and animals, media reports said yesterday.
Temperatures touched 50.3 deg C in the Rajasthani town of Churu last week, just shy of India's record of 51 deg C.
The monkeys died in Joshi Baba forest range in Madhya Pradesh state, where the thermometer reached 46 deg C.
District forest officer P. N. Mishra said the primates were believed to have fought with a rival troop over access to a water source. "This is rare and strange as herbivores don't indulge in such conflicts," Mr Mishra told NDTV network.
Tigers have also been reported to be moving out of forest reserves into villages in search of water, causing alerts.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE