As many as 24 states in the country, including food baskets Punjab and Haryana, have received deficient rainfall in June as the sluggish pace of monsoon raises worries with 250 districts across India reeling under severe water crisis.
Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told IANS on the sidelines of an event here that "there is deficit rainfall till now. Let's hope for the best."
While all eyes are now on the weather god, reports have not been encouraging with private forecaster Skymet predicting a below normal monsoon this year.
Mahesh Palawat, Director at Skymet, said the precipitation in July and August may remain below average. However, Palawat claimed that it will not impact the agriculture sector.
June ended with a rain deficit of 33 per cent. For states like Punjab, it was the first dry June since 2014. The monsoon has missed its scheduled arrival at almost all the places in north India. There are five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, where rainfall has been about 60-99 per cent below the normal.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist Mrutyanjay Mohapatra, who will take over as the next chief of the weather agency in August, said that there will be 95 per cent of average rainfall in July and the overall monsoon forecast will be revised by July-end. It means that July may also witness below average rainfall.
Poor rains in July will worsen the prevailing drought-like situation in the country.
Meanwhile, the Jal Shakti Ministry on Monday launched a campaign that will run till November 30 to accelerate progress on water conservation in 1,592 water stressed blocks spread across 256 districts.
The campaign talks about rain water harvesting, renovation of water bodies, recharging groundwater and afforestation, among others issues. However, the Union Ministry has gone into a 'wait and watch' mode as far as the current monsoon season and droughts are concerned.
Scarcity of water has become a major issue in Maharashtra's Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, Bundelkhand that spreads across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and in parts of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The Maharashtra government's much-touted Jalyukt Shivar scheme, in which deepening of streams and ponds is carried out, too has failed to provide water to the people.
Water conservationist Vijay Borade called the scheme "unscientific", saying that digging activities were carried out without studying geological and topographical aspects.
"Just digging deeper does not help you conserve water. There should have been different studies in different areas. At many places in Marathwada, the scheme has caused wells to go dry as digging nullah deeper has led to water flow going away from the wells," Borade said.