Maharashtra celebrates Ashadhi Ekadashi today[i], also called Dev Shayani Ekadashi, when god Vishnu went to sleep. Ashadhi Ekadashi is a cultural phenomenon in Maharashtra, holding a special place in the hearts of devotees and atheists alike. This is the day when the Vaari, a travelling caravan of devotees reach Pandharpur, the abode of Pandurang or Vitthal from various places in the state. Pandurang is a special god himself. He is the loving god of the farmers and cattle herders and the toiling masses of the state. People travel to Pandharpur with tradition attire and gaiety. Ashadhi Ekadashi is supposed to fall right in the middle of monsoon as coughing Parineeta told me in the morning, enjoying the Pune rains. She also said that Farmer leader Sharad Joshi used to be unhappy with this festival as farmers left behind their fields right in the sowing season to go for the Pandharpur Vaari, away from their fields for days at end. Festivals are always fun though.
However, the situation of rainfall, the annual bounty on which farmers and everyone else in rural areas and those of poetic bend in Urban areas depend, is not always very happy. When the state faced drought during 2012-2016, these were anxious years. However, that is not the case this year.
Good Rainfall across Maharashtra so far? This year, Maharashtra seems to be in a happy situation with good rainfall so far. In fact, looking at India Meteorological Department’s daily district-wise rainfall figures[ii], one is pleasantly surprised that Maharashtra is having surplus rainfall not only at state level (33% surplus above normal rainfall till July 22, 2018), but also at regional level in Konkan (45% surplus), Madhya Maharashtra – the strange group of ten districts that IMD has under this name, including Kolhapur, being on the Western Ghats Plateau, has way higher rainfall compared to Pune, Nashik and Satara, who fall in the middle rainfall area and much lower rainfall districts like Sangli, Solapur, Ahmednagar from Western Maharashtra and Dhule, Nandurbar and Jalgaon from Northern Maharashtra – (28% surplus), Marathwada (12% surplus) and Vidarbha (29% surplus) and even in district level with 30 of the 37 districts showing surplus rainfall, see table below for details.
|Mah State||Konkan & Goa||Madhya Mah||Marathwada||Vidarbha|
|Districts rainfall, mm (% departure from normal)||Mumbai City 1510.1 (37%)
Palghar 1960.8 (73)
Raigarh 2226.9 (47)
Ratnagiri 239.3 (42)
Sindhudurg 2774.8 (36)
Suburban Mumbai 1922.2 (69)
Thane 1988.9 (71)
|Ahmednagar 215.2 (22)
Dhule 213.4 (-10)
Jalgaon 264.9 (1)
Kolhapur 1065.8 (22)
Nandurbar 277.5 (-22)
Nashik 570.6 (53)
Pune 635.6 (67)
Sangli 196.8 (-14)
Satara 501.7 (50)
Solapur 169 (2)
|Aurangabad 193.3 (-17)
Beed 214.6 (-1)
Hingoli 405.6 (16)
Jalna 208.4 (-16)
Latur 336.9 (21)
Nanded 434.5 (38)
Osmanabad 303.2 (32)
Parbhani 327.3 (13)
|Akola 436.5 (43)
Amravati 365.9 (16)
Bhandara 542.8 (24)
Buldhana 228.8 (-16)
Chandrapur 625.6 (40)
Gadchiroli 680.3 (29)
Gondiya 597 (25)
Nagpur 612.1 (38)
Wardha 441.6 (21)
Washim 328.7 (49)
Yavatmal 458.1 (25)
Note the massive difference between rain in Konkan and rest of the state. And yet, the water transfer from lower rainfall Krishna Bheema basin to Heavy Rainfall Konkan continued even in this monsoon.
Huge discrepancy in rainfall figures The sense of pleasant surprise, however, was a bit punctured when I saw the Maharashtra government’s rainfall figures[iii]. Its possibly the best site among all the states in India, which provides not only state wise, districts, wise, tehsil wise, but also circle wise actual daily rainfall figures, along with normal rainfall figures and these figures are achieved. However, the figures here are at significant variance with the IMD’s figures. I won’t go into all the details of the variance here, but the significant difference between the rainfall figures between MahaRain and IMD is disconcerting.
Maharashtra’s total rainfall till July 22, as per state govt website is 555.9 mm, compared to IMD figure of 587.8 mm. More significantly, the actual rainfall till July 22 is 33% above normal rainfall going by IMD, but only 8% going by MahaRain. At district level, some of the differences were even more striking. For example, Kolhapur district received 1065.8 mm rainfall till July 22, which was 22% ABOVE normal as per IMD. However, according to MahaRain, Kolhapur got only 808.7 mm, 10% BELOW normal! With the exception of Satara, Solapur and Jalna districts, almost all the other districts in Maharashtra got lower rainfall and lower than normal compared to IMD figures. Why cannot we get even our rainfall figures straight? We have noted such discrepancy in the past[iv] and suggest deeper investigation and enquiry as to why this is happening.
High Rainfall Events: Another thing one noticed while going through the IMD’s daily district rainfall figures was there there were much larger number of events with high (say above 50 mm in a day), very high (100-200 mm rainfall in a day) and extremely high (above 200 mm in a day) rainfall this year in Maharashtra[v]. So such events have been tabulated below and in this case, the discrepancy between IMD and MahaRain was not huge.
|District||Dates on which rainfall 50-100 mm||When rainfall 100-200 mm||When Rainfall above 200 mm||Total no of High Rainfall Days|
|Raigarh||0606, 1006, 1806, 2306, 2406, 2506, 2606, 2906, 0407, 0707, 1107, 1407, 1507, 1607, 1707||0507, 0807, 0907, 1007||–||19|
|Ratnagiri||0606, 1106, 2106, 2206, 2306, 2506, 2606, 2706, 0507, 0607, 0807, 0907, 1107, 1207, 1307, 1707||1006, 2406||–||18|
|Thane||0906, 2206, 0307, 0407, 0507, 0707, 0907, 1007, 1407, 1507, 1707||2506, 2606, 0807, 1107, 1607||–||16|
|Palghar||0307, 0407, 0707, 1107, 1407, 1707, 2107||2506, 2606, 0507, 0807, 0907, 1007, 1507, 1607||–||15|
|Sindhudurg||0606, 0906, 1806, 2006, 2406, 2506, 0907, 1107||1006, 1106, 2106, 0607||–||11|
|Suburban Mumbai||0606, 2606, 1607||0307, 0407, 0807, 0907, 1007, 1107||2506||10|
|Mumbai||2506, 0307, 0407||2406, 0907, 1007||–||6|
|Kolhapur||0607, 1307, 1607, 1707||–||–||4|
But this needs comparison with frequency of such events in previous years, which is not readily available, but should be interesting, with even Nagpur and Gondiya getting over 100 mm rainfall in a day and even Satara, Wardha and Bhandara getting rainfall over 50 mm in a day. This will also help understand the impact of climate change on such frequency, that is bound to happen, as scientists have been telling us.
Flood prospects? Such high rainfall situation could lead to flood situation. In that context, it would be useful to monitor the Reservoir situation[vi] in Maharashtra. As per Maharashtra Water Resources Department’s Daily Reservoir Bulletin (again more informative than such data from any other state) for July 23, 2018, Maharashtra’s major reservoirs are 51.86% full. Konkan’s major reservoirs are 85.84% full, while the situation in Marathwada is much worse with only 19.3% live storage capacity filled, medium reservoirs are 39.89% full and minor reservoirs 29.7%, the state wide total storage filled is 48.83%.
The lower % filling of medium and minor reservoirs possibly shows that the rainfall distribution is not that good. But over half of the major reservoir already full while over two months of monsoon still to come could mean we need to constantly monitor the situation. Storage situation for some of the big reservoirs of Maharashtra: Koyna: 79% full; Ujani: 22.3% full; Paithan/ Jaikwadi: 26.8%; Gosikhurd: 25.4% and Totladoh: 19.5%.
Some dams are already full and have started releasing water, creating flood hazard for the downstream areas. Some such examples are: Gangapur dam near Nashik[vii], Khadkwasla dam upstream of Pune[viii], Radhanagari dam (filled up by July 21, 2018[ix]) near Kolhapur. Tulshi and Vihar lake in Mumbai are also reported full.
Why Mumbai floods That reminds one of this Brilliant report, which is worth quoting here about Why Mumbai floods, as it also happened more than once already this year. It says[x]: “Each time it pours in Mumbai and the city floods, we hear tragic stories of its many victims and inspiring stories of courage, support and mutual aid. Any city that regularly demands such a price for survival and such a toll on human life, is not unprepared for calamity – it is unprepared for normality… We need to establish that flooding is an environmental, not an infrastructural crisis; to re-conceptualise the relationship between land and water; to reframe how we understand ‘infrastructure’ that can sustain overlapping urban ecosystems; and to reconsider our approach to city-making… Flood plains, coastal wetlands, salt marshes, lakes, rivers, natural green cover, fields, unpaved open-spaces – all of these are lands that provide the vital service of absorbing surface water and recharging ground water. On the other hand, areas of the city that are paved-over need to be designed to drain away water by slope management and by a carefully integrated system of artificial and natural channels.”
The authors add: “A systematic failure to recognise the relationship between land and water is behind much of our flooding problems. Our cities are being built on the logic of land economics and hydraulics, instead life systems and hydrology… We invest faith and money in mega-projects like the Brihanmumbai Storm Water Drainage project (BRIMSTOWAD), that are often ineffective and almost always unaccountable.”
Rainwater harvesting on Ashadhi Ekadashi? All this also underlines the urgent need for National and State Urban Water Policy. But the issue of management of rain to ensure rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge is much bigger. One so much wishes that we had a modern day leader who would inspire people on occasions like Ashadhi Ekadashi to take up rainwater harvesting/ groundwater recharge/ tree planting and such other appropriate work. Vithal would certainly be happier in that case?
Note: The cover Photo on Top: Women bathe in Chandrabhaga river in Pandharpur source: Alamy
[iv] See for example: https://sandrp.in/2015/10/02/state-says-59-9-rainfall-imd-says-73-highlights-and-discrepancies-of-maharashtras-monsoon-2015/, https://sandrp.in/2015/10/28/imd-mp-govt-provide-shockingly-different-district-rainfall-figures-will-they-explain-please/ and https://sandrp.in/2015/10/30/discrepancies-in-rainfall-figures-for-andhra-pradeshs-drought-hit-districts/
[v] This is somewhat in line with IMD definition (see: http://imd.gov.in/section/nhac/termglossary.pdf) of Heavy Rainfall (64.5-124.4 mm), Very Heavy (124.5-244.4 mm) and Extremely heavy (over 244.5 mm). IMD has another category called Rather Heavy rainfall (35.6-64.4 mm), which I just noticed, will use it in future.