How IMD defines advancement of Monsoon in India

The Indian Meteorological Department, IMD, is the official Government weather forecaster for India. Monsoon is the most important season in India, which accounts for a huge chunk of the Indian economy. India’s agriculture, pisciculture, floriculture and to some extent logistics are vastly affected by seasonal variations in the monsoon. That is why, IMD makes 2 predictions on monsoon, one at the start of the season in June, and one in the middle of August. Also, IMD notes down the progress, withdrawal and activeness in almost every cities, districts, and even at village level.

How can IMD declare the onset of monsoon? There are 3 well-defined criteria to declare the onset of monsoon.

  • The first, which is the most visible one, is the rainfall. At least 60% of the stations in the area must receive rainfall of 2.5mm or more for 2 consecutive days.
  • The second one is the wind pattern, in which wind should blow more or less continuously at 27-37 kmph from the south-west direction.
  • The third one is the least visible of all, and that is the outgoing long wave radiation should be below 200 watt per square metre.

Similar to onset of monsoon, the withdrawal of monsoon also follows 3 not-so-similar criteria.

  • First one is no rainfall for 5 consecutive days.
  • The second one is development of anticyclone in the lower troposphere.
  • The last one being considerable reduction in moisture content of air.

Skymet is the other official weather station which is private. For the past 3 years, Skymet and IMD failed to agree upon the onset and withdrawal of monsoon from India. Skymet following IMD’s criteria, usually agrees with IMD, but this has failed in the last 3 years by some margin. In 2020 and 2021, Skymet announced the arrival of monsoon before IMD did, for which IMD stated the predictions as ‘factually wrong’. In 2022, IMD announced the arrival before Skymet did, and the Skymet accused IMD for ‘not following its own criteria’. However, even after all this, the arrival monsoon is after a sultry summer and a dry spell of 7-8 months brings a respite to farmers and city-dwellers alike.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Cleaning the Ghats of Kolkata – Part 2

This is part 2 of the series. To read about part 1, click here.

In the part 1 of the series, we have seen how we have polluted the ghats of Kolkata, which had for many decades been the lifeline of the city, through its water transport, providing drinking water, and having historical and religious sites. However, we ourselves are responsible for not maintaining the ghats, leading them to be shabby and dilapidated, making them a place for garbage dump, and a breeding area of mosquitoes. However, as we are looking at the western world, how they are maintaining cities, some of which have been raged to the ground, awareness is spreading among the masses in and around Kolkata.

We have looked at how several committees within the city are looking forward to making Kolkata a cleaner and greener city. While the authorities have done a wonderful job in the Newtown and to some extent salt lake area, such could not be made possible without the awareness of the public around the crowded old town, which lies at the bank of the river. While a rich section of the society is aware about cleaning the ghats of Kolkata, most common people, especially those living near the river are not. It is up to the committees, to spread the news of keeping the environment clean.

Some committees like Y-East and Bouddi have initiated a cleanliness drive along the ghats of Kolkata. They have engaged over 100 local people to clean up some of the well-known ghats of Kolkata. For more information about that matter, visit Y-East and Techno Main Salt Lake college has also organized a Plogging competition around the city, helping with the cause. Schools like Delhi Public School in Kolkata also campaigned to spread awareness to keep the Hooghly river clean. There are some Facebook groups and communities where like minded people come together to save the Hooghly river flowing past Kolkata. We all need to come together and make Kolkata a clean and green city to live.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Places in India to Witness the Advent of Spring

Spring season is welcomed in India with a seasonal festival. Spring marks the end of the harsh, cold winter, and the beginning of a warm sunny summer. Spring is the time, when the trees are filled with new leaves and flowers. Viewing blossoms is viewed as an important festival in many parts of the world, the most notable among which is cherry blossom in Japan. Though we have followed Japan and started some kind of festival in big cities, we always have cherished our own spring blossoms. Let us now look at a few places in India where we can witness trees in full bloom at the advent of spring.

1)Kashmir :

No doubt the Vale of Kashmir has to be in the list. Kashmir is situated in the northernmost part of India, where winters are harsh. Hence, the advent of spring is viewed as an important festival by the Kashmiris. The almond trees first burst into blossoms, followed by apple, cherry, and chestnut. The Tulip Garden of Srinagar gets filled with thousands of tulips at this time. It, along with other Mughal Gardens, attract tourists from all over the country and abroad.

2)Sikkim :

Sikkim is the least populated state in India, but is one of the most diversifying ecological hotspots in the country. Rhododendron and orchids cover up the hilly state at the advent of spring. The Yumthang valley of North Sikkim burst into flowering at this time, and it is thus popularly known as the Valley of Flowers. As the weather remains pleasant during this time, with little rainfall, tourists throng in thousands to this wonderful little state of India to witness spring at its full grandeur.

3)Purulia :

Tucked away in the western corner of West Bengal, the splendour of Purulia is best witnessed during spring, when the Palash trees are full of orange-red, flame-like flowers. With development of tourism in Purulia in recent years, tourists have started visiting remotest parts of Bengal villages, to witness the advent of spring. Rabindranath Tagore, during his stay at Shantiniketan, liked the Palash bloom in the area, and gave rise to Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan.

4)Ladakh :

In the cold desert landscape of Ladakh, we have the apricot blossom in spring. In Leh and Kargil regions, winter snow makes way for apricot trees to burst into blossoms as the temperatures turn less harsh during spring. Though the locals have enjoyed apricot blossoms for centuries, Ladakh is a bit cut off from the rest of India due to snow in high mountain passes along the route. Leh is however, connected to Delhi via flight services, thus helping tourists reach there and witness the landscape of pink and white apricot flowers in the midst of brown hills and blue skies.

5)Manipur :

Giant Himalayan Lily, a flowering plant with huge flowers bloom at the advent of spring in the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur. Small villages like Liyai Khullen village in Senapati district are filled with majestic blooms of these giant flowers in late spring. Though Manipur is an off-beat tourist spot in India, nevertheless, the state has much to offer, and if we have some festival like that of cherry blossoms in Meghalaya, we will surely see a large influx of tourists in this quiet, picturesque state.

Have you witnessed any of these blossoms? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Cleaning the Ghats of Kolkata (Part 1)

The Bhagirathi-Hooghly river flows through one of the most densely populated regions in India. Starting from Berhampore in Murshidabad, Nabadwip-Mayapur in Nadia, along the Hooghly industrial region of Bandel-Naihati, Chandannagar, Chinasurah, Serampore-Barrackpore, culminating at Kolkata-Howrah, the most densely populated region in entire eastern India. It is thus a hectic task to keep the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river pollution-free at least at the ghats. Though the ghats north of Kolkata are quite clean and well-maintained, the ghats around Kolkata are one of the dirtiest, with more space for garbage than for bathing.

The ghats along Hooghly, North 24 Pargannas and Howrah were quite poor until recently. However, almost all of them underwent extensive maintenance and renovation, as well as garbage removal. Now most of the ghats along with the river banks underwent redevelopment and brought under riverside beautification project. In Kolkata, though efforts have been made to beautify the Princep Ghat area, the other ghats still lie shabby, littered with garbage. The Millennium Park, which was expected to be the top recreational centre when inaugurated back in 2007, is now a disused place, with defunct rides and amphitheatre centres. The Babughat now has a footbridge over the ghat area, which is really clean and tourist friendly, but the ghat itself is still a garbage dump area. The stretch from Armenian Ghat to Bagbajar Ma er Ghat is worse with the riverfront being used as warehouse centres and slums. Within this stretch lies the Mallick Ghat, the largest flower market of Asia, the Jagannath Ghat, in the Burrabazar wholesale market area, Nimtala Ghat, the largest cremation centre in Kolkata, the Sovabajar Ghat, with many temples, and the Kumartuli Ghat, the area which is renowned for making Durga idols. The situation is not any better north of Bagbajar ghat in Cossipore and Baranagar. Only the Dakshineshwar Ghat fared well in northern Kolkata despite being the crowdest, attracting thousands of devotees each day.

If developed, the area could have been a major tourist hub and recreational centre. The whole Kolkata riverfront contains various tourist centres, like the Princep Ghat, the Eden Gardens Pagoda, the Metcalfe Hall and other building museums of BBD Bag, the Sarada Ma house, the Sarbamangala Temple of Cossipore, and Baranagar Ramakrishna Math. However, illegal encroachments, illegal parking slots, ill-maintenance by the municipality, lack of awareness, and most importantly, lack of our interest in our own city Kolkata is what is stopping it from developing into a Grand Strand that the cities of the West have.

How we can develop the ghats of Kolkata is being covered in the second part of this article.

Organic Farming in India – Good or Harmful?

The term organic farming refers to farming methods using only biofertilizers, biopesticides, for growing traditional, heirloom, high-yielding, and even genetically-modified seeds. Organic farming is at its nascent stage in India, where a few farms have taken up the new initiative to make food crops healthy. Despite being a healthier alternative, organic farming poses substantial challenges to farmers, and may never replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides throughout the country.

Sikkim is currently the only state in India whose agriculture is 100% organic. Only 4 other states – Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand and Goa have more than 10% of the land under organic farming. Overall, the whole country has only 2% of land under organic cultivation. The top 3 states by areas under organic farming – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra constitute more than half the total area for organic farming.

Though many states of India have their own organic farming policies, most of them are not looking to meet their targets. Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Mizoram, Kerala, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have desired to become fully organic farming states in coming years. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have their own policies for organic farming. However, none have made it as far as Sikkim. Despite its small area, India has the highest number of organic farmers in the world.

Organic farming in India has the potential to become popular in hilly areas, and areas of large ecological diversity. This is because chemical fertilizers and pesticides can get washed away by rain water to rivers, lakes and ponds, polluting them, causing diseases to man and the wild. Eutrophication still possesses major problems across rural India. This is predominant in the hills as run-off water in the hills easily reach the plains and subsequently the rivers. It also poses a hazard to pisciculture as chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill fish and aquatic life.

However, despite its advantages, the drawbacks are keeping a check on the growth of organic farming in India. Firstly, productivity is low at around 60-75% of the yield of conventional agriculture. Secondly, India has a huge middle and low income class population which cannot afford an increase in prices for daily food items and groceries. Thirdly, it would be impossible to feed the huge population of India though its own produce and India would then need to import more food crops to avoid a famine. Lastly, organic food is healthier is a myth, though organic food is environment friendly.

We can have organic farms where environment protection is our top priority. The hilly states, which have opted for organic farming policy should implement them as soon as possible with or without assistance from the Centre. However, for the bulk of the produce, we still require it to be dependent on conventional agriculture, to sustain the huge demand to feed the overgrowing population of India.

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Written by – Himadri Paul