Since I’ve been back here, temperatures in and around Banepa have hovered around 30⁰C. Even as I take the kilometer or so walk in to work through the fields in the relatively early morning, the dust, heat and humidity are already becoming quite oppressive. (But spare a thought for VSO volunteers in Rupandehi to the south of here, experiencing daily temperatures in excess of 40⁰C!). The dusty paths and bone dry rice paddies waiting for the downpour are interspersed with small swathes of iridescent green rice ‘nurseries’, and maize. The occasional brief downpours and the view from my office window at Sakriya Plus Nepal might suggest that all is well, but the locals, (and pretty much everyone I know here grows something) are already concerned that the late onset of rains may substantially reduce the yield. The regional distribution of precipitation and knowledge of wet and dry spells within the season are clearly important for sowing and harvesting of crops, as well as water resource management.
Thus it is that with the end of June beckoning, the eyes of everyone in Nepal are fixed firmly on the skies, waiting for the Monsoon rains. The Monsoon is the seasonal wind circulation which affects large tracts of South Asia and brings much of the annual rainfall. It is a thermally driven low pressure area caused by temperature differences between the Asian continent and Indian Ocean during the summer season. Towards the end of May, the high temperature over the land gives rise to a low pressure area extending from Somalia northwards across Arabia into Pakistan and North West India. This low pressure attracts a flow of moist oceanic air towards it. The flow of wind over the west coast of India is often sudden, reversing the prevailing wind direction and bringing with it heavy rainfall.
The exact location of the ‘monsoon trough’ is dependent on a number of variables, which you can read about here if interested. Suffice to say the Monsoon is one of Nepal’s greatest natural assets, and a poor monsoon can cause a major dent in the economy.
“… in 2006, in the eastern Terai, rain deficit resulted in crop production reduction of 12.5 per cent on a national level. Similarly, 2009 has been the driest one recorded in decades because of low monsoon rains. As a result, summer crop yield plummeted by 30 to 35 per cent which caused the food shortage that triggered …double digit inflation”.
…and so it is that I join with my fellow residents in the Kavre district in watching the skies….