The near-normal monsoon in 2016 may have helped most parts of the country come out of two successive droughts and perhaps propel foodgrain output to a new high, but not in the South.
The drought has extended its grip in the South, with the South-West monsoon falling significantly short and the North-East monsoon proving a total failure.
Reeling under the impact of failed monsoons, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have declared themselves as drought affected. Kerala and Karnataka, which are the worst affected, are already contemplating actions such as cloud seeding to tide over the situation.
In Kerala, the S-W monsoon deficit stood at -34 per cent, and the North-East monsoon, -61 per cent.
Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, the deficits were -19 per cent and -62 per cent (North-East monsoon). For Coastal Karnataka, the shortfall stood at -21 per cent and -63 per cent, respectively.
Drought-like conditions are also prevailing in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The aggravating drought in Peninsular India has not only affected the output of agriculture and allied sectors, but has also triggered drinking water shortages, causing hardship not only to the masses but also to livestock and wildlife.
Water levels in key reservoirs in the region are at their lowest. The water tables have declined further even as the civic administration in many cities, small towns and panchayats has been increasingly tapping groundwater to ensure supplies. The situation is so dire that the Kerala government has directed PepsiCo to cut down drastically on the use of groundwater for its Palakkad plant.
While the recent sporadic bouts of summer showers in several regions have begun providing some relief, it might not go a long way in reversing the situation. Production of food crops such as paddy, ragi, jowar and sugarcane, among others, has taken a hit in the region. Also, plantation crops such as tea, coffee, coconut, rubber and arecanut have been impacted.
Output in allied agriculture sectors such as dairy, sericulture and poultry has been affected. Due to fodder and water shortages, several instances of distress sales of animals have been reported from Kerala and Karnataka.
Wildlife, flora and fauna have also borne the brunt of the prolonged dry spells and Kerala and Karnataka have reported increasing instances of man-animal conflicts in the recent past. Forest fires were being reported mainly in the Western Ghats.