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India in for drier, hotter summer

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Pre-monsoon rainfall has been 21% below the long-period average (LPA) of 82.5mm between March 1 and May 8, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). North-west India, with a rain deficit of 37%, and peninsular India, with a shortfall of 39%, bore the brunt.

Rainfall triggered by cyclone Fani earlier this month managed to bridge the deficit in central, east and north-east India, which have now recorded normal pre-monsoon rains, according to data put out by IMD in its weather status report released on Friday. Central India has experienced 15% surplus rain over the LPA, mainly due to showers in the past one week.

Even so, extreme heat waves in most parts of India would mean large swathes of the country will remain dry before sowing begins in June for the Kharif crop with the onset of the south-west monsoon, which is critical in India, where nearly half the population is dependent on farming and 60% of the net-sown area does not have any form of irrigation.

Millions of farmers wait for the rains to begin summer sowing of major crops, such as rice, sugar, cotton, coarse cereals and oilseeds. Half of India’s farm output comes from summer crops dependent on these rains.

Many parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are facing a drought-like situation despite the 2018 south-west monsoon bringing ample rainfall, experts said.

“The water level in big dams this year is 10-15% less than previous years despite many of the regions receiving good rainfall last year,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

According to figures released by the Central Water Commission on Friday, 91 of the major reservoirs across the country are holding an average of 25% of their capacity.

Concerns of a weak monsoon this year have been fanned by a lingering El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterised by warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that is associated with poor rainfall and more episodes of heat waves in the subcontinent.

An update by private weather forecaster Skymet Weather said on Thursday that after tapering down slightly during April, El Niño indices have risen again in the last two weeks although the increase has been marginal.

“During the beginning of monsoon, there is a 60% chance of El Niño conditions remaining steady. This is why we are expecting monsoon rain to be below normal in June and then gradually becoming normal in the latter part of July and August,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president (meteorology and climate change), Skymet Weather. Deficient pre-monsoon rains and a weak beginning to the monsoon could have an impact on summer crop sowing, which may be compounded by deficient rainfall.

For a bountiful crop, the rains also need to be evenly distributed across regions. Robust summer rains, which account for 70% of India’s total annual rainfall, spur rural spending on most items and increases demand in other sectors of the economy. Rural sales, for instance, account for about 48% of all motorcycles and 44% of television sets sold annually if the monsoon is normal.

Officials at IMD, however, said concerns about El Niño are premature. “El Niño conditions have definitely not gone up. June onwards, it will move towards neutral El Niño conditions. We don’t expect El Niño to amplify. At the most, there will be a sluggish start to the monsoon but it will not be detrimental in any way,” said KG Ramesh, IMD’s director general.

Last month was marked by heat waves in many parts of the country, including eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Vidarbha, and Telangana. Some northern parts of the country also recorded extremely high temperatures.

For example, Una in Himachal Pradesh recorded 41.7 degrees C on Friday; Sundernagar, also in Himachal Pradesh recorded 37.6 degrees C, Dehradun in Uttarakhand was at 38.7 degree C. The highest maximum temperature this summer recorded till now has been at Brahmagiri in Vidarbha on May 2 at 46.4 degrees C.

“Heat wave in central India, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh is expected in May which is the peak summer season… We have noticed that the temperature in the foothills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are also 3 to 4 degrees above normal. Temperatures also increase before a western disturbance approaches,” said Charan Singh, senior scientist at IMD. Due to an approaching western disturbance (WD) and moisture incursion from Arabian Sea, scattered rainfall and thunderstorms are expected in north-west India and north India, including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, on Sunday.

“The heat wave will abate. There will be scattered rainfall in northwest India till May 17. But it is unlikely to compensate for the deficient pre-monsoon showers over the country,” added Palawat.

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IMD issues ‘red alert’ for North India as heatwave intensifies, warns people to stay indoors between 1-5pm

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As the temperature in the Northern India is soaring high with each passing day the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that heatwave is likely to persist for the next few days in most parts of the northern India, Maharashtra and Telangana. While, the day temperature in the state capital is likely to touch 46 degrees Celsius by Tuesday.

The IMD has also issued a ‘red alert’ for a severe heatwave, for parts of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Rajasthan for the next two days.  While sweltering heat engulfing the capital city on Sunday with maximum temperature hovering close to 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the IMD also issued “orange” warning for eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Heatwave will prevail in many places and severe heatwave in isolated places. Mainly clear sky with strong surface winds (20-20 kilometres per hour),” the IMD forecast said.

The maximum temperature was recorded at 44.4 degrees Celsius, which was five notches above the normal, on Sunday and the minimum temperature was recorded at 28.7 degrees Celsius, two notches above the normal.

The temperature is likely to remain around 46-48 degrees Celsius in all the northern states affected by heatwaves except for Uttar Pradesh.

Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the regional forecasting centre of the IMD, said some respite from the stifling heat is expected in the national capital on May 28 due to a fresh Western Disturbance and easterly winds at lower levels.

“Dust storm and thunderstorm with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour is likely over Delhi-NCR on May 29-30,” he said.

Srivastava added that this this is the first “Red” warning for heatwave which is issued by the IMD according to the intensity ascending from  green to  yellow to orange with the highest level of red.

“The warning has been issued to caution people not to step out between 1 pm and 5 pm, when heat is most intense,” said Srivastava.

The ‘Red alert’ comes at a time when lakhs of migrant labourers are on roads, walking back to their home states amid the Coronavirus lockdown, making it all the more difficult for them to reach their destinations when even the ‘Shramik Special’ trains and buses with inadequate numbers and mismanagement haven’t been able to take them  back safely.

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As India resumes domestic operations partially after two months of shutdown, 82 flights cancelled on Day 1

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India finally resumed its domestic flight services from Monday, two months after commercial airlines ceased operations in view of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Accordingly, the first flight from Delhi’s IGI airport since resumption of domestic flight operations, landed at Pune early today.

Similarly, two flights operated at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, while one departed from Mumbai for Patna. The first arrival was from Lucknow as the domestic flights operations resumed. Both operated by IndiGo, the first service to Patna flew out at around 6.45 am, while the incoming flight landed aound 8.20 am, said airport officials.

Several other incoming and outgoing flights are scheduled during the day as the Maharashtra government late on Sunday permitted restricted operations in view of the Coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the state in a big way. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport authorities and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, state government and other agencies have deployed full Covid-19 protocols to handle the incoming and outgoing flight passengers.

Flights are so expected to resume at Pune, Nagpur — both international airports — besides smaller state airports like Nashik, Shirdi, Kolhapur etc.

Maharashtra government has allowed 25 takeoffs and 25 landings every day from Mumbai airport.

However, adding to the frustration of passengers, as many as 82 flights to and from Delhi have been cancelled, with the people claiming that they were not informed till the last minute.

An Air India Bengaluru-Hyderabad flight was reportedly cancelled without prior notice from the airline. Passengers came to know about the cancellation only when their boarding passes were scanned at the airport entry.

Also, an Air India flight to Delhi from Mumbai was cancelled without prior notice.

Meanwhile, as mandated, airline officials and cabin crew were seen in full protective suit, while passengers in masks were checked for their temperatures before entry into airports.

The re-commencement of services comes a day after massive spike in ticket cancellations, along with a drop in bookings, was reported by the aviation industry for Monday’s flights as several states had moved to limit air operations.

Consequently, in order to calm nervous passengers Centre said that barring just two states rest of the country is open to accept domestic flights.

States across the country will resume domestic flight services on Monday except Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, said Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday.

Airports in Andhra Pradesh will resume services on Tuesday, May 26, and West Bengal will restart on Thursday, May 28.

Another daunting confusion was over the quarantine norm which many states said they will enforce on air travellers.

This led to a cascade of calls at the customer care centres of online travel agents.

Nevertheless, many passengers still wanted to travel, if they were provided with a choice for ‘Home Quarantine’.

Earlier, air passengers gave an overwhelming response to the re-commencement of passenger flight services from May 25, as healthy demand was witnessed for tickets on all metro routes.

The Centre had only allowed limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of the summer schedule to operate between metro cities and other destinations from May 25, adding that this capacity might be ramped up in the coming period.

Aarogya Setu App status is a must for air travel. Passengers with “Red” status on the app are not allowed to travel. No traveller from containment zones would be allowed. Further, it is mandatory for passengers to wear protective gear i.e. a mask.

Meanwhile, the Centre has said that it will try to start a good percentage of international passenger flights before August.

Union Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri Saturday said that if the virus gets under control, the international flights could resume as early as mid June.

On May 20, the Government had informed that domestic flights would recommence in “calibrated manner” from May 25.

Passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights since March 25, due to the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.

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India among top 10 worst hit countries with over 1.38 lakh Coronavirus cases, death toll at 4,021

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As domestic flight operations in India start on Monday, the total number of Coronavirus infections in the country rose to 1,38,845. Of these 77,103 are active, while 57,720 patients have been discharged. The death toll stands at 4021.

For the fourth consecutive day, India reported the highest ever spike of 6,977 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. As many as 154 new deaths were reported during the same period.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the total number of cases in India has surpassed that of Iran becoming the 10th country with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide.

With 50,231 confirmed novel Coronavirus cases, Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in the country, followed by Tamil Nadu (16,277) and Gujarat (14,056).

According to the latest data from the Union Health Ministry, Maharashtra has reported 1,635 COVID-19 deaths so far. As many as 14,600 patients have recovered.

The death toll was 111 in Tamil Nadu and 858 in Gujarat. Delhi has reported 13,418 cases and 261 casualties.

States/UTs with more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases are Rajasthan (7,028), Madhya Pradesh (6,665) and Uttar Pradesh (6,268). Others with more than 1,000 cases are West Bengal (3,667), Andhra Pradesh (2,823), Punjab (2,060), Telangana (1,854), Bihar (2,587), Jammu and Kashmir (1,621), Karnataka (2,089), Odisha (1,336) and Haryana (1,184). States and UTs with significant number of cases are Kerala (847), Jharkhand (370), Chandigarh (238), Assam (378), Tripura (191), Chhattisgarh (252) and Uttarakhand (317).

Sikkim and Dadra and Nagar Haveli did not report any fresh incident in the last 24 hours, as per ministry data. Goa has reported 66 cases so far. A spurt has been observed in Pudducherry which now has 41 cases. There are now 52 cases in Ladakh.

With the number of cases passing 1.38 lakh, the government announced an SOP(Standard Operating Procedure) that would begin with social distancing at the airport and no-contact check-in. All the passengers have been asked to download the Aarogya Setu application on their mobile devices and state to ensure thermal screening. Passengers have also been asked to reach the airport two hours before departure and maintain social distancing.

Globally, over 5.5 million people have been infected with the novel Coronavirus, with death toll at 3.4 lakh.

Currently, the US has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,643,098 and 97,711, respectively.

In terms of cases, Brazil accounted for the second highest number of infections at 363,211.

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