The Indian monsoon generally occurs between June and September each year. It follows the hottest period of summer weather, which creates a low-pressure zone over the Indian subcontinent. The low pressure brings winds from the southwest, carrying moisture from the Indian Ocean. The monsoon often arrives with torrential downpours, then moderates into periods of rain interspersed with heat and sun. The monsoon effect is central to the Indian economy, particularly agriculture. The monsoon also brings the majority of annual rain to the subcontinent, thereby determining water supply in many regions. The intense rainfall also can create hardship in the form of floods and disease caused by water-born illnesses and mosquitoes.
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In India, agriculture accounts for approximately 70 per cent of employment and 20 per cent of GDP. Farmers are highly dependent on monsoon rains. If the rains come even two weeks late, harvests become adversely affected. A weak monsoon or drought causes widespread hardship and affects the entire Indian economy, as food prices rise and domestic purchasing power is reduced. A shortage of rainfall also may cause a reduction in hydroelectric production, which has an adverse effect on all economic sectors. Particularly strong rains may bring floods, and damage crops and infrastructure.
The monsoon brings 80 per cent of India's annual rainfall. By the time the hot summer months arrive prior to monsoon, water can become quite scarce throughout much of the country. A healthy monsoon refills underground aquifers, lakes and reservoirs. Even in the best of circumstances, many people in India face daily difficulty acquiring adequate water. A weak monsoon can leave entire regions in extremes of water scarcity.
When a weak monsoon causes food and water scarcity, people suffer. The change in weather and rainfall also brings an increase in diseases. Dengue fever and malaria increase during and after monsoon. Both diseases are transmitted by mosquitoes, which proliferate because of the abundant standing water. Monsoon brings an increase in viral fever and bacterial diseases. Many localities in India have poor drainage systems, resulting in flooding during heavy rains. Localised flooding may leave people exposed to dirty standing water, which serves as a breeding ground for bacteria and other disease vectors.
Occasionally, particularly heavy rains lead to large-scale or even catastrophic floods. In 2004, a dam burst in the kingdom of Bhutan. Millions of people were left homeless, with the state of Assam being affected the worst. In 2005, more than 1,000 people were killed in floods and landslides. In 2008, more than a million people were left homeless, and 250,000 homes destroyed after the Kosi river in Nepal burst its banks. Flood waters rushed down the eastern flank of the Himalayas and flooded a significant portion of the state of Bihar.
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