South Asia: Intense water deficits Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, eastern Gujarat

19 January 2018

The 12-month forecast ending August 2018 indicates moderate to extreme water deficits in a vast stretch of central India centered in Madhya Pradesh, a large pocket north of New Delhi, far northeastern India, a few pockets in southernmost India, and Afghanistan.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast in Bangladesh, central Nepal, and the Pennar River Basin in southern India. Surpluses of lesser severity are expected in Indian states to the east and west of Bangladesh, and along the Krishna and Godavari Rivers in western Maharashtra and Karnataka, India.

Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center reported at the beginning of January that almost 300,000 people in five northern districts of the country remain affected by a major drought, which has caused three consecutive seasons of rice crop failure and a consequent rice shortage.  A week after the report release, the nation's largest water reservoir had its grand opening. The Moragahakanda Reservoir, with a capacity of 570 million cubic meters, will support irrigation in several provinces and generate 25MW of hydroelectric power to the national grid.

Damage to 100 km of the Indian Gandak Irrigation Canal, the result of flooding and landslides last year, is affecting 25 to 30 percent of central Nepali wheat crops. Under an agreement between Nepal and India, responsibility for the canal repair rests with India. No repairs have been made and the year-end deadline for agree-upon water delivery has passed. 

India is moving to dam more water from the Indus basin before it reaches Pakistan, escalating tension between the two nations over water resources. The Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan, signed in 1960, entitles India to 20 percent of water flows from the western rivers in the Indus Basin, but India now claims that it currently draws less than its allotment. Experts say the proposed new dams are part of an ongoing dispute between the two nations over the region of Kashmir.

In central India, drought in Madhya Pradesh has spurred out-migration, particularly in hard-hit Bundelkhand. Railway officials report a three- to four-fold increase in passengers destined for Delhi, primarily agricultural workers in search of work, with numbers reaching nearly 2,000 people a day. Low rainfall reduced rabi (winter harvested) sowing by over 50 percent in some districts.

The 3-month composites (below) show the evolving conditions.

As is apparent in the map progression below, the forecast for India indicates the persistence of intense water deficits in central India through June 2018.

In the next several months, through March, deficits will spread throughout much of India, with a large block of exceptional deficits emerging in eastern Gujarat, linked by extreme deficits along the Narmada River to deficits nearly as intense in Madhya Pradesh. Extreme to exceptional deficits are forecast for Karnataka, and deficits of lesser severity are expected throughout much of the remainder of India. Moderate deficits are forecast for southern Pakistan. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in southern Afghanistan, with exceptional deficits along the northern border and in pockets of the northeast. Deficits in northern Sri Lanka will downgrade to moderate.

Exceptional surpluses will continue to dominate Bangladesh and nearby states in India to the east and west. Some exceptional surpluses are forecast for central Nepal and surpluses of varying severity are expected in eastern Nepal and western Bhutan. Moderate surpluses are forecast for Sri Lanka’s southern tip. Both deficits and surpluses are forecast for central Gujarat, the Pennar River Basin, and far northeastern India, and in western Nepal, as deficits emerge in areas of previous surplus.

From April through June many areas of water deficit in India will return to near-normal conditions, with the exception of a persistent block of exceptional deficits in Madhya Pradesh. Moderate deficits are forecast along the Mahanadi River through Chhattisgarh and Odisha, and intense deficits will emerge in India’s far northeastern states. Merely mild deficits are forecast for Pakistan and, while deficits in Afghanistan will downgrade, moderate to severe conditions will continue to emerge. A large pocket of exceptional surplus will persist in the Pennar River Basin in southern India. Water surpluses in Bangladesh and Nepal will downgrade to moderate, and surpluses in West Bengal and Indian states east of Bangladesh will return to near-normal water conditions.

The forecast for the final period – July through September 2018 – indicates an uptick in the severity of deficits in Afghanistan, a downgrade to moderate deficits in Madhya Pradesh, and some pockets of moderate surplus in central Maharashtra.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers. 


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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