Maharashtra facing unprecedented floods as Kolhapur, Sangli, Sindhudurg and Nashik districts are inundated
Due to very heavy rainfall for the past one week, all the major rivers in Madhya Maharashtra region are in full spate, with no respite from rainfall. Local people claim these floods are unprecedented and the government ignored the early signs of floods, which have now turned catastrophic
On August 6 night, Balasaheb Patil, residing near collector's office in Kolhapur, was at his home when water started to rise rapidly and gush inside his house. He had already kept some valuable stuff up in the loft as it had been pouring non-stop for the last few days in Kolhapur and neighbouring districts of Maharashtra.
"During heavy rainfall, there is some water-logging, but never did I imagine that flood water will rise up to 9-10 feet and destroy everything. I had to swim and get out of my house. The same way I rescued my wife, too," Patil narrated to Gaon Connection. He claimed he had never seen such floods in Kolhapur all his life.
For the past two days, there is no electricity or water supply in Kolhapur. Train services are suspended and highways are flooded, too. People are marooned.
"We had floods in 1989 and 2005, but this year it has been unprecedented. In some rural areas of the district, flood water levels are as high as 10-12 feet and over 3,000-4,000 people are still trapped without food and drinking water," said Patil. "It is a big disaster. Our kharif [monsoon] crop of paddy, soybean and peanut is also washed away," he added.
Floods in the state forced the state chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to cut short his statewide 'MahaJandesh Yatra'. He is now expected to fly to Kolhapur tomorrow (August 8) to take stock of the flood situation. Fadnavis has also sought help from Union defence minister Rajnath Singh to help coordinate and expedite flood rescue and relief efforts. Five Navy teams have been mobilised to rescue stranded people. He has approached BS Yediyurappa, the Karnataka chief minister, urging him to discharge water from the Almatti Dam so that the flood situation eases a bit in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, north Karnataka is also facing floods.
"We are receiving non-stop heavy rainfall for the past six days, so flooding was imminent. It is not a flash flood, but built over past few days. But the state government ignored the early signs and now situation has gone out of control," said Shrirang Gaikwad, a resident of Kolhapur and editor of Marathi daily Sakal. "The entire district is under water. Similar situation is in Sangli district… We have had floods in 2005, but this year's floods are beyond anyone's imagination," he added.
About 150 kilometres away, residents of Sindhudurg district are also struggling to stay afloat. "For the past four to five days, we are surrounded by flood waters. It's been raining heavily. No support has come from the authorities; it is the local people who are rescuing each other," Arjun Rane, a resident of Sindhudurg told Gaon Connection.
According to him, the district faced massive floods in October 2005, but the recent floods are worse than the worst floods in the district. "All eight talukas of the district are under several feet of water. Our houses, farmlands and rivers are all flooded," added Rane.
Large excess rainfall
A look at the India Meteorological Department's (IMD) rainfall data shows how the districts of Maharashtra were pounded by extremely heavy rainfall in the past two weeks.
For instance, between July 25 and July 31, Kolhapur received 105 per cent more rainfall than its weekly normal. Nashik district received 358 per cent above normal rainfall during the same time period. Satara and Sangli districts had 161 per cent and 159 per cent above normal rainfall in the last week of July. These rainfall figures come under the IMD category of 'large excess' rainfall.
Heavy rainfall continued in the first week of August leading to massive floods in the state. Within 24 hours, between August 6 and August 7, Kolhapur district received 469 per cent above normal rainfall. Within the same time period of 24 hours, Satara and Sangli districts received 564 per cent and 423 per cent above normal rainfall, respectively.
So far, in the southwest (SW) monsoon season (June 1 to Aug 6, 2019), Kolhapur and Sindhudurg districts have received 'excess' rainfall of 56 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively. Pune, Nashik and Satara have received 'large excess' rainfall of 134 per cent, 95 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively (see map: District rainfall departure map).
Of all the 36 meteorological sub-divisions in the country, Madhya Maharahstra is the only sub-division with 'large excess' rainfall this SW monsoon season (see map: Subdivision rainfall map).
Meanwhile, parts of Marathwada region in the state are still facing deficient rainfall. As of August 6, Beed, Latur, Parbhani and Jalna have a rainfall departure of minus 39 per cent, minus 29 per cent, minus 29 per cent and minus 22 per cent, respectively.
Explaining the reason behind pounding of some districts in Maharashtra, Sridhar Balasubramanian, associate professor of mechanical engineering and an adjunct faculty member at IDP Climate Studies, IIT Bombay says: "Due to the ongoing and persisting phase of positive IOD [Indian Ocean Dipole], the west Indian Ocean heats up and creates convection patterns and strengthens the cross-equatorial flow. During this phase,winds are highly favourable for the Konkan coast and the cloud bands get pushed further inland due to strong winds." Moreover, the waning El Niño in the Pacific has also allowed for a better cross-equatorial flow of monsoon currents, thereby pushing the southwest monsoon. Lastly, active Bay of Bengal conditions are also favouring strong offshore trough along the Arabian Sea coastline, he added.
According to him, rainfall will ease in Maharashtra post August 10 for a brief period.