Mangoes, Monsoon, and the Indian Man

In Development, Environment, Life, Life in India, The Big Picture by Vijay Jayaraj0 Comments

People in India have much to rejoice about in the month of June. The country’s mango season is in full swing—it lasts from May to September. The mangoes in India are some of the best in the world and are exported throughout the globe. But that’s not the only sweet thing to happen in June.

The whole country waits for the major event of the year—the summer monsoon season (June – September). This year the monsoon rains have set in on time, which is a big relief as the onset of monsoon can sometimes be weak or delayed. The newspaper front-pages that talked about record high temperatures are now showcasing news about the intense rainfall throughout the country.

Welcome to India’s monsoon period.
The country is predominantly agricultural with more than 60 percent of its 1.3 billion population depending on agriculture for their livelihood. One cannot stress more the importance of monsoons. Rain decides life and death.

2016 has been surprisingly pleasant so far. Rainfall in the country for 2016 is predicted to be more than average, with the catchment areas of major rivers receiving a fair amount of rain.
As per the most recent press release by the Indian Meteorological Department, even the driest parts of the country are projected to receive rainfall, thereby boosting the cultivation of monsoon crops in these regions. Almost the entire country is currently receiving rain.

The mood in the country is so upbeat that even the shares of agricultural products and consumer goods increased on the news of an extended monsoon season. The rains also bring respite from the hot tropical summer that reached highest ever recorded temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit) this year caused by the massive El Nino.

The beauty associated with monsoon season is reflected in the many poems about it. The country’s western coast receives very high rainfall, making it uniquely picturesque, and holds some of the most visited tourist places in the country.

But being a developing country with poor infrastructure in its cities, normal life is susceptible to heavy rains causing disruption in many parts of the country. Transportation services, especially trains, are severely impacted in Mumbai, West Bengal, and the entire Western coast of India. The rain also affects the harvesting and transportation of vegetables, thereby increasing their prices by a small margin.

Cities get flooded because of their incompetent drainage systems, and the roads built using sub-standard materials begin to disintegrate, making it impossible to drive on them. Cities like Delhi and Mumbai face water scarcity even during the monsoons because of their unplanned expansion and inadequate water supply system.

Many Westerners who visit think of this as a permanent condition, but they are mistaken. Just as economic development delivered Western countries from such problems, India’s continued economic development, if unimpeded by misguided climate and energy policies, will enable it to afford to solve these problems with better roads, drainage systems, and water storage and distribution systems.

But despite the monsoon’s friendly nuisance (created mostly because of improper planning), people embrace the monsoon rains as the lifeline of India. Parts of the country are reeling from the severe drought that lasted for the past two years. The rains will bring much respite to those villages that are completely cut off from any water source.

Whether the monsoon will live up to its promise is yet to be seen, and will eventually decide this year’s income for millions of families in the country. But for now it is a welcome blessing!

Featured image courtesy of Tornado_Twister/FlickrCC.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science) is the Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He currently lives in Udumalpet, India.

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