Decreased rainfall attributed to El Nino
By: Shahid Husain
Karachi: The Pakistan Meteorological Department has revised its rainfall forecast for August and September to 20 percent below the long-term average for the country’s northern regions and 40 percent below the average for the southern regions.
The decreased level of rainfall is being attributed to the early onset of the El Nino phenomenon, which is a result of higher temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The decrease in rain is likely to result in water shortages in the south-west of Pakistan, which will further affect crop productivity and power generation.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is anticipating around 22.13 million acre feet (MAF) of water inflow for this year, which is 20 per cent below the requirement of 26.493 MAF.
Though there was a strong wave of monsoons last week, they were largely restricted to upper Punjab and the adjoining regions of KP. Various media sources have reported six deaths in Gujranwala City in Punjab as a consequence of the heavy rains on 11 and 12 August.
Water reservoir levels
The water level in Tarbela Dam was 1492 feet on 16 August, 56 feet below the optimum level, and 1168 feet in Mangla Dam, 75 feet below the optimum level. Both levels are below the annual average for the last 10 years. Water inflows from snow and glacial melting are likely to reduce by the end of August due to decreasing temperatures in the upper catchment areas.
Mild to moderate drought conditions will persist along the Balochistan coast and the south-west regions of Pakistan, leading to the depletion of local water sources.
Sindh has received the least monsoon rainfall so far, which has left its eastern and south-eastern regions more vulnerable to drought. However, soil moisture and water content accumulated due to above average rains and floods in 2010 and 2011 are likely to mitigate any drought vulnerability.
Initial estimates indicate that the sowing pattern of summer (kharif) crops such as rice and cotton has been close to normal, although there are reports of delayed sowing in some regions due to water shortages.
Some press reports have indicated a 10 percent reduction of area under rice cultivation and an increased incidence of virus attacks on cotton and sugar cane crops due to water paucity