Guest blog by: Madhusoodhanan C.G. and Sreeja K.G
The state of Kerala experienced extreme precipitation events during the 2018 South West monsoon period with multiple episodes culminating in devastating floods across the state during 14th-18th August 2018. This year, with an early onset of monsoons that dovetailed with strong summer showers, the state received about 41% excess rainfall (2394 mm against the normal of 1700 mm) during the period June 1st to August 22nd . Almost all of its reservoirs were near full storage by mid-July.
The heavy downpour and the uncontrolled opening of the spillway gates of almost all reservoirs that inundated huge stretches of river banks and floodplains, along with massive landslides across the Western Ghats affected more than 1.5 million people, with close to 500 human casualties, immense losses to property, livelihoods and resource security apart from the extensive damage to forests, wildlife and biodiversity. Maximum destruction was observed along the rivers of Periyar, Chalakudy and Pamba, all having multiple dams on their tributaries. The debate is still on as to the various reasons, both manmade and natural, behind the floods and the resultant wide-ranging casualties [2,3,4,5,6]. Meanwhile things have taken a rather unexpected turn in the flood ravaged state.
Since the beginning of 2019, there have been couple of incidents of hailstorm in Haryana and Punjab. The region has also seen good rainfall in January. The hilly states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand have been repeatedly facing heavy snowfall events gripping the large parts of North India in cold waves.
The initial rains and snowfall were seen usual events and considered as beneficial for rabi crops and water demands. However the unusual hailstorm accompanied by heavy rainfall In January 2019 and again on Feb 7-8, 2019 have caused significant damage to standing crops in large part of Haryana, Punjab and Western parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)
Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.
This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)
Even as large parts of India are facing drought, following deficit North West Monsoon, there is more bad news that farmers already know and experience. The rainfall in the three post monsoon months, from Oct 1 to Dec 31, 2018 at all India level has been 71.2 mm, which is 44% below normal rainfall of 127.2 mm. While the quantum of rainfall in these months is not expected to be high except in some South Indian areas, it is crucial for providing life saving and life sustaining moisture for the Rabi crop. It was particularly important since the second half of the South West monsoon was significantly below normal in large parts of Central and South India[i]. These same areas are experiences biggest deficits in Oct-Dec rains. Continue reading “More bad water news: Post monsoon rains 44% below normal”
Unprecedented Kerala deluge that swept through the coastal state on the day of Independence day 2018 was most disastrous flood incident in the year. It has also been termed as one the worst flood in the state and reminded the people of July 1924 and July 1962 flood calamities. Many experts, several reports and studies have established the role of dams in worsening the deluge. According to reports, 35 out of the 46 dams within the state were opened for the first time in history. All 5 overflow gates of the Idukki Dam were opened at the same time, for the first time in 26 years.
State Government Accepts Dams Role
Kerala is usually considered a flood-proofed state with its undulating terrain. For a state that receives an annual average rainfall of nearly 3,000 mm, its natural landscape protects it from recurrent floods. Indeed, the Kerala flood has highlighted our poor dam management system.
As per officials the crisis could have been contained had the state “gradually released” water from at least 30 dams, in advance of high rainfall, adding that local authorities failed to foresee the imminent danger with high rain predictions. “Such floods have probably recurred after 100 years, exposing the State’s unprofessionally run reservoirs management system and unpreparedness on disaster mitigation and disaster resilience.
2018 becomes fifth year in a row when India’s south west monsoon has been below normal. In the beginning of monsoon season, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecasted rains to be normal with rainfall equal to 97 percent of the long term average. However at the end of the season the overall rainfall turned out to be 91 percent, with deficit of 9 percent at national level. However, as we see in this overview, the situation as move from national to local figures, is much different, mostly much worse.
According to IMD’s State Rainfall Map (cumulative) dated 30 Sept. 2018, the country received 804.0 mm rains against 887.5 mm of normal average. Thus the south west monsoon 2018 had 9.4 percent below normal rainfall.
India’s most important season from water point of view, the June-Sept South West Monsoon has just ended officially on Sept 30, 2018. India Meteorological Department (IMD) reported that India received 804 mm rainfall in these four months of monsoon 2018, compared to normal rainfall of 887.5 mm. So Monsoon 2018 rainfall was 9.4% below normal, also proving IMD forecast wrong. Continue reading “River Wise Rainfall in Monsoon 2018”
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.
Bundelkhand is known as a drought prone region. It is comprised of 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh and 6 districts of Madhya Pradesh. Monsoon rains are crucial. However for past several years, the region has faced deficit rains leading to water scarcity particularly for agriculture related activities. Let us the situation of of Monsoon rain in Bundelkhand this year.
Bundelkhand is part of Lower Yamuna Basin, for which IMD provides rainfall figures in its river basin wise rainfall maps. This basin received 785.4 mm rainfall in 2018 monsoon, 9% below normal rainfall of 863 mm for this sub basin. IMD needs to provide rainfall figures for each sub basins, including Ken, Betwa, Dhasan etc.