Such a drought is almost certain to hit every sector of agricultural production which could witness a 40-per cent drop and experts fear that the crop collapse could cause a loss of up to Rs 1,000 crore to the State. The situation in the power sector could be worse and its indications are already available from the reservoirs of the hydro-electric projects.
The State Government already expects the drought to be the worst in seven years but officials in the departments of Water Resources, Agriculture and Power fear that it could be the worst drought to hit Kerala after 1987. It could also affect milk production in the State which is already hugely insufficient to meet the demand.
Both the southwest and northeast monsoons, bringing 95 percent of the total annual rainfall in Kerala, have betrayed it. The expectations this year was that the June 1-September 30 southwest monsoon could bring a minimum of 2040 mm rainfall. With the northwest monsoon rains, this was to go up to 2,400 mm but the total rainfall received in the State so far is just over 1800 mm.
The Kerala State Electricity Board had expected the rains between June and November to bring enough water to generate 5,280 million units (MU) of electricity. But the actual availability was sufficient to generate only 3,170 MU. The gap is sure to widen by the end of this month as it is projected that there could be drop by over 40 percent in the water inflow into reservoirs."The situation is not in any way ideal for the State which depends almost wholly on hydro-electricity," said a top KSEB official. "The board will be left with no option but to impose more power controls, in addition to the one-hour load-shedding already in place. It will also have to buy power from outside at exorbitant rates," he admitted.
The benchmark for assessments on generation in Kerala's power sector is always the water level in the giant Idukki hydel reservoir and the picture it presents at the moment is a gloomy one. Running at its maximum capacity, Idukki's share in the State's total 2,200 MW power generation is 780 MW, but maximum generation is unthinkable, particularly in the present situation.
As on Saturday, the storage in the Idukki hydel reservoir was just 33,31 percent of its capacity which would suffice to generate only 716 MU of power at a time when the average per-day consumption in the State is 54 MU. The fact is that the water in the reservoir is sufficient only for 40 days if the facility is run in full capacity.
The situation is not different in the other 22 hydel reservoirs in the State. "The only option is to buy power from outside. At a minimum of Rs 10 per unit, the board will have to spend at least an additional Rs 2,000 crore for this. "It becomes all the more serious when one considers the fact that power could cost up to Rs 18 per unit in the peak of summer," said the official.
Life in Kerala, which is already hard due to the rise in prices of essential commodities and the recent hikes in public transports fares, may become harder with a drought. Experts expect agricultural production to witness a sharp fall if the drought turns out to be as severe in the summer as they now fear.
Kerala could be seeing severe drinking water scarcity in the coming months if the warnings being given by officials of the Water Resources Department could be believed. Water is a scarce commodity even now in several areas and four districts in the State have already been declared as drought-hit.