Uttrakhand has received 3% below normal rainfall during South West Monsoon 2018. Though the figure falls in normal category, however district level rainfall data paints a very different picture. Out of total 13 districts in the Himalayan state, four districts namely Almora, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal and Udham Singh Nagar have received deficit rains, whereas three districts which includes Bageshwar, Chamoli and Haridwar have got rainfall in excess. Out of the rest six districts four are on marginally positive side and two are on marginally negative side.
|Rainfall, mm||June 2018||July 2018||Aug. 2018||Sept. 2018|
|Districts||Actual||Normal||% Dep||Actual||Normal||% Dep||Actual||Normal||% Dep||Actual||Normal||% Dep|
Table showing month wise rainfall distribution
The second table above gives district wise, month wise break up for Uttarakhand for monsoon 2018.
IMD’s (India Meteorological Department) week by week rainfall departure table shows sharp variation in monsoon rain distribution in the state. For example there were nine weeks in a row when the actual rainfall was far less than normal in Pouri the central district of the state. Similarly there was deficit rainfall in Almora district for five weeks in a row. The last three weeks further highlights the changing rainfall pattern in the hills. In two weeks before the last week of monsoon,, there was deficit rainfall in all of the districts excluding a couple, however the entire state received rainfall in excess in the last week of the monsoon.
Environmentalists also emphasize the uneven rainfall distribution in the state. “Although, overall rainfall in the state was relatively better than previous years, yet the distribution was highly scattered. There was heavy rainfall in Dehradun valley, then Kotdwar area also witnessed unusual rainfall events.” says Anil Joshi of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization a Dehradun based organization.
All through the monsoon season there were flash floods causing huge damages to local residents. In pre monsoon season there was cloud burst event in Narayan Bagad block of Chamoli district on May 2, 2018. Then the very beginning of monsoon season started with multiple cloudburst incidents in four districts of the state on June 1, 2018. To see the details of cloud bursts events in Uttarakhand state this year, kindly see SANDRP blog Uttrakhand Cloudburst Incidents 2018.
According to Mallika Bhanot of Ganga Ahvahan, monsoon in the state was just as erratic as it has been in recent years. At some places the rainfall was very intense as a result Yamunotri and Pithoragarh faced devastation. “Since almost a decade the monsoons in Uttarakhand are a cause for worry as the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts are increasing and the anthropogenic activities in the valleys (Char Dham Road widening, dam construction) adding to the persistent issues of forest fire escalate the impacts and monsoon becomes a season of destruction/devastation” says Mallika Bhanot.
In June, Chamoli was the only district to have received excess rainfall. Six districts experienced over 20% rainfall deficit in June: Almora, Chamoli, Pauri Garhwal, Pithoragarh, Udham Singh Nagar, USNagar experiencing the highest deficit among all districts in June.
In the month of July too 11 people were reportedly killed in rain-related incidents in the capital city of Dehradun alone. A suspension bridge at Pithoragarh’s Nachani was also washed in heavy rains while roads were damaged in Munsyari and Dharchula areas of the district. Highways in the state were blocked following multiple landslides.
“उत्तराखंड में अब बारिश जानलेवा बन रही है।” (rainfall are turning into a disaster in Uttrakhand now a days in Uttrakhand) says Suresh Bhai of Raksha Sutra Andolan Uttarkashi. He further explains that earlier light showers used to happen for days without causing landslips and flash floods but now the state has become a home for disaster.
“Within Uttrakashi, rainfall pattern was very abnormal. Matali and Gangotri got very inadequate rains where as in Uttarkashi town area it was slightly better. Then there were heavy rainfall spell causing landslides along roads. There were three accidents in which around 35 people were killed in Uttarkashi and the main reason was landslides instigated by sudden heavy rainfall” adds Suresh Bhai.
He further says that the aggressive development model is ruining the ecology of Himalayas. “In the name of development government is cutting lakhs of Devdar trees for Char Dham high project in Uttarkashi district. This will affect Ganga river. The road project has increased landslides during monsoon which has affected the marginal farmers adversely” Suresh Bhai explains. To know more about the road project, please see; Char Dham Highway Project: An Overview.
In July 2018, two districts had above 20% surplus rainfall: Bageshwar and Chamoli. Districts that had above 20% deficit monsoon: Pauri Garhwal, Almora, Tehri Garhwal, Udham Singh Nagar and Rudraprayag.
In the first week of August 2018, there was flash flood spell in Song River, Dehradun. As per reports, the river reclaimed its encroached flowing path after 25 years threatening hundreds of houses in Gaur Maafi village.
In the last week of August 2018, there was heavy rain spell killing two people in separate incidents. In Kotdwar district, over 400 houses were inundated. Water-logging was reported in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Udhamsingh Nagar and Dehradun. More than dozen houses were damaged in Bageshwar.
One district (Almora) experienced over 20% deficit in August 2018. Eight districts experienced over 20% surplus rainfall: Haridwar, Nainital, Bagheshwar, Pithoragarh, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and Dehradun.
Journalist Onkar Bahuguna of Badkot says that not only mountain areas but the plain areas of the state are becoming more disaster prone.
He further reveals that mismanagement of drainage systems and corruption in execution of roads and drainage project as one of the main reasons for monsoon turning into a disaster in Uttrakhand.
In Sept 2018, districts that faced over 20% deficit rainfall included: Almora, Udham Singh Nagar, Pithoragarh, Tehri Garhwal, Rudraprayag. Districts that had over 20% surplus rainfall: Champawat, Chamoli, Bageshwar, Haridwar.
As per the information from the state Emergency Operations Centre (SEOC), 69 persons died in Uttarakhand since June 15, 2018 in various natural disasters such as landslides, debris falling on people, floods, flash floods and cloudburst. Many people were swept away while crossing perennial rivers that remain dry for most parts of the year.
“Nowadays its not raining the way it used to be a about two decades back. However the rainfall was good this year. Though the distribution was uneven” says Shyam Singh Belwal of Syunsal village in Thailisain block, Pouri district.
Even during departure of the monsoon, 2 people died in flash flood in Basani village of Haldwani when their bike was swept away in the water flowing on the road in the absence of a bridge. The incident highlighted the severity of floods and flash floods during monsoons.
In Conclusion At state level the monsoon may appear normal but at districts level in monthly rainfall there are huge variations in terms of rainfall intensity and distribution. Even in normal monsoon four districts in the state are deficit and 3 are surplus. The monthly and weekly rainfall trend in the state is also worrying. Most of rainfall happened in just few weeks and most weeks were without normal rains. The severe rainfall intensity in shorter time seems to be increasing thus causing more and more flash floods, landslides events.
The deforestation and cutting of mountain slopes for widening of roads for Char Dham project and hydropower projects have significantly increased landslide incidents along the construction route during the monsoon. As a result many people have died in this monsoon season. The impacts of climate change are also being felt in Himalayan state as there were a dozen of cloud burst event in the state during the monsoon 2018.
Composed by Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)