Monsoon 2019 wrap: Losses despite 10% above-average rainfall
As per the records of the home ministry, 25 lakh people across 22 states were affected this year due to floods, rains and landslides-related disasters, which claimed 1,874 lives
Daya Sagar 21 Oct 2019 7:07 AM GMT
Mathole Ahirwar, 63, a farmer based in Bundelkhand's Lalitpur district is worried. This time, his woes are not due to drought but due to excessive rains. The rains, occurring in the last week of September, had ruined his four acres of urad crop. Suffering from drought for several years in a row, Bundelkhand farmers are about to see their pulse-crop to be ruined this year due to September rains.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has declared this September's rains to be 50 per cent above average for the month. September hasn't received such rainfall for a century when in 1917 it had rained 65 per cent above average for the month. This is primarily attributed to the geographical conditions prevalent over the Indian Subcontinent and climate change.
Several parts of the country, including Bihar, Assam, Maharashtra, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala were flooded this year. As per the records of the home ministry, 25 Lakh people of 357 districts across 22 states were affected this year due to floods, rains and landslides related disasters. The disasters claimed 1,874 lives while more than 3 lakh houses and 14.14 lakh hectares of crops had suffered damage.
Incidents of flash floods are on a rise so much so that the phenomenon has been declared the 'new normal' by the weather experts and environmentalists. As per them, the incidents of such phenomena will continue to grow more with each passing year and that we'd have to gear ourselves to face them. The creation of 'Climate Resilient Infrastructures' is being considered in order to combat such disasters.
The monsoon season of 2019 saw 10 per cent more rainfall than the average. Before this, such rainfall was only recorded in 1994. After 1931, this is the first time when despite June having received below-average rains, the overall rainfall has been 10 per cent above average. Due to the cyclone this year, monsoons had a late entry into the subcontinent which further resulted in 30 per cent rain deficit for June.
This year received a total of 88 cms rainfall. Out of the country's 36 sub-zones, two received rainfall far exceeding the normal whereas 10 received above-average rainfall. At the same time, 19 weather sub-zones received average and five below-average rainfall.
The Central and southern India received the maximum monsoon rains with 29 and 16 per cent excessive rains respectively. However, there had been areas like the northeastern India which longed for rains while it had been raining incessantly in other areas. Despite the floods in Assam and West Bengal, eastern and northeastern India received 12 per cent below average rains.
As per the drought map of IIT, Gandhinagar, though the country has received above-average rainfall, about one-fourth of it is facing drought. This includes Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra's Marathwada and Vidarbha. In 19 years since 2000, it is for the 18th time that the northeastern states have received below-average rainfall.
Dr KJ Ramesh, ex-director, IMD doesn't, however, consider it a threat yet. As per him, the rainfall average (LPA) has been set so high for the northeastern states that 10 per cent lesser rainfall is not a cause of worry for them.
He said, "This year it has rained so amply that with better management, most of the irrigation and drinking water woes of the country can be addressed. Besides, this, monsoon rains would also be very beneficial for the rabi crops." However, he also accepted that the rain deficit in other states such as Jharkhand and West Bengal is problematic and serious.
Monsoon's unpredictable pattern despite record rainfall
This year monsoons provided above-average rainfall, but its pattern had been pretty unpredictable. It had been a pattern of the south-west monsoons that upon entering the subcontinent in the month of June, it rains more in the month of July and August. September is the month of monsoon retreat whereby September 15, monsoons retreat completely from the Indian Subcontinent.
But this year it was not so, it rained incessantly throughout the country in September. The IMD admitted in a statement that even it couldn't foresee such heavy rainfall for the month of September. Dr Ramesh says that since the IMD forecasts monsoons activity as early as March-April, it had been difficult for it to forecast September rains so well ahead.
Meanwhile, another major weather agency Skymet Weather had forecasted 93 per cent rainfall for this year. Skymet Weather's chief scientist, Mahesh Palawat says that his team could never have expected that originating in the Indian Ocean, Indian Ocean Dipole IOD would be strong enough to create the possibility of record rainfall.
He told Gaon Connection over the phone, "El Nino always mitigates the effect of IOD. Besides, the effect of IOD is localized. But this time the IOD was strong enough to fight back El Nino. Record rainfall was also assisted by the four incidences of Madden-Julian Oscillations during the monsoons."
Mahesh Palawat further said that climate change is also affecting the monsoons, which is why there are more rains for in smaller periods. He also informed that climate change also had made it difficult to predict weather with relative accuracy. He said that this year challenged all weather forecasting models including those of the US, Australia, Japan and Europe.
Emphasis upon Disaster Resilient Infrastructures
Unprecedented rainfall this year had affected record population wreaking disasters like floods, lightning and landslides which took away 1,874 human lives and damaged more than 3 lakh houses. The major cause of Bihar and Maharashtra floods was the breakdown of the dams. Many environmentalists are, therefore, advocating the creation of disaster-resilient infrastructure.
Anshu Sharma is the founder of Seeds, an organization engaged for the past two decades in the field of disaster-resilient infrastructure development. He said: "During the present times of climate change, it is fast becoming normal to witness excessive rains, floods, landslides and earthquakes so we must brace ourselves to face the situation. We must build disaster-resilient homes, schools, buildings, bridges, embankments and other structures so they may be the least affected in natural disasters."
Anshu Sharma talked about training not only the engineers but also the masons who actually undertake the construction activity. He said that by merely investing 8-10 per cent additional amount, one can build oneself a substantially strong and disaster-resilient home.
India has formed an alliance of developed as well as developing nations to focus upon disaster-resilient infrastructure which is called the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). This is to help its member nations in combating natural disasters and their aftermath. These nations face one or the other natural disasters every year and their infrastructure gives in easily to the disasters.
Formally initiating the coalition at the UN Meet PM Modi had said we must come up with concrete steps to tackle climate change and not wait until it's too late.
The Action Aid's global climate lead, Harjeet Singh also affirmed that time has come to act not just talk. He told Gaon Connection over the phone: "Policies are formulated to address climate control, but they are never really followed. I fear lest this coalition should end up like that too. We need to take these policies to the grass-root officials because it is where the real action happens. We need to train them and allocate separate funds to develop disaster-resilient infrastructure. Besides this, we also need to develop every policy bearing in mind climate change."
Harjeet Singh said: "This is no rocket science. We just need to be ready to face every situation. For example, we must spruce up our drainage and storage systems upon monsoon's onset to field excessive or sparse rainfall. We will also have to be mindful of the climate change and its terrible outcomes while building embankments so that they may not give away easily during severe floods."
It is noteworthy that this year breaking down of the embankments during rains in Bihar and Maharashtra exacerbated the flood situation. Harjeet Singh also advises to develop the early warning systems so that the farmers and other citizens may be well prepared to meet the disaster.