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Rain wreaks havoc in some states; deficit rainfall in others

Nearly 100 deaths have been reported from various states due to rainfall and floods across the country

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Over 1,200 households are suffering from floods. Image Source: www.plan.org.hk
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The Monsoon rains have created a havoc, taking nearly 100 lives in some states, while in other states deficit rainfall has been recorded.

Heavy rains over large parts of Maharashtra since Sunday have caused nearly two dozen rain-related deaths, reports said. The deaths were reported from different parts of northern Maharashtra as Nashik and surroundings were lashed by torrential rains.

In one of the worst tragedies in recent times, two buses of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation with 22 passengers, were washed away in the flooded Saraswati River near Mahad in coastal Raigad district early on Wednesday.

A massive search operation by the state government, four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard helicopters, police and fire brigade divers and volunteers of adventure groups are helping the search operations.

Almost 15 hours after the tragedy, rescuers found two bodies a short distance away from the disaster site, which is 18 kms from the Arabian Sea on the Konkan coast.

Incessant rains continue to lash coastal Konkan, northern and western Maharashtra for the past five days, with at least 12 persons losing their lives in the past 24 hours in these regions.

Downpours in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Mumbai, Thane and Palghar in Maharashtra have affected normal life, transportation and communication.

However, the rains have not yet reached the parched Marathwada region though the situation has improved in Latur town, which has been getting water through Jaldoot trains since April.

While many areas in Maharashtra are experiencing floods, some parts of Marathwada and western Maharashtra continue to be supplied water through tankers.

Monsoon rains have led to flooding in parts of states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in recent days. The ill state Uttarakhand has experienced landslides at some places due to heavy rain.

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In Uttar Pradesh, the monsoon has been active in most parts over the last one month. Seventy-five districts have got average to moderately high rainfall, while only 13 districts have experienced deficit rainfall.

Rivers in the state, including Ghaghra, Sharda and Ganga, are in spate and many villages in Bahraich and Barabanki are under water as neighbouring Nepal released several cosecs of water, leading to flooding of many regions on the border.

Officials said that more than 30 people have died in rain-related incidents in July.

Agra has experienced good rainfall this year. Against the annual average rainfall of 650 mm, Agra has already had around 700 mm and the good spell continued with more showers on Wednesday. Two long spells of heavy downpour on Monday virtually paralysed life in the city, with the Balkeshwar Mahadev fair in a total shambles.

“The July rains set a new record this year,” recalled old-timer Munna Lal, a cycle repair shop owner of Moti Lal Nehru Road.

The Yamuna River, which passes through Agra, saw water level rising after heavy discharge upstream.

The Parikrama Marg in Govardhan and Vrindavan are under knee-deep water in several stretches.

Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of the Friends of Vrindavan, said pilgrims are facing problems as repair work is still to begin, despite many complaints. “The Yamuna is full of water which is a very pleasant sight after many years,” he said.

Except Sikkim, most parts of northeast India have so far experienced deficient monsoon rains, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) data said on Wednesday.

The other seven northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura — recorded around 14 per cent deficient rains during June 1 to August 2, the IMD report said.

IMD Director Dilip Saha told IANS in Agartala: “Due to inadequate depression and low pressure circulation in the Northeast, the region has so far recorded deficient rainfall. However, the deficiency would be covered in the remaining part of the monsoon.”

However, some parts of the Northeast witnessed excess rainfall.

Due to heavy rains and poor maintenance, National Highway-8 and National Highway-208(A) had turned into muddy quagmires with knee-deep slush over 10 to 20 km area in southern Assam’s Karimganj district adjoining north Tripura, thus virtually snapping Tripura’s surface communication.

The Southwest monsoon that advanced to Kerala on June 8, has been deficient by 25 per cent so far.

In Himachal Pradesh, after days of heavy rainfall, the monsoon is likely to remain subdued till August 5, the Met office said on Wednesday.

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Despite 26 per cent deficit rain this monsoon, the rains have claimed 20 lives so far. The damage to public and private property was estimated at over Rs 160 crore, an official said.

He said the towns of Shimla, Mashobra, Narkanda, Kufri, Kasauli, Shimla, Palampur and Manali recorded rainfall.

A government spokesperson said that water level in the Sutlej, Beas and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries, which are in spate in Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Bilaspur and Sirmaur districts, have start receding with the decline in rainfall.

Even the water level in Pong Dam — one of the state’s major water reservoirs — was still 40 feet lower on Tuesday compared to the last year. The dam is on River Beas.

“The water levels in the Pong dam reservoir stood at 1,326 feet on Tuesday,” an official of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) told IANS.

The water level in the reservoir stood at 1,366 feet on this day last year.

In Haryana, the state government has sounded an alert in Yamunanagar and downstream districts of Yamuna River owing to heavy water inflow from neighbouring Uttarakhand. (IANS)

 

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Environmentalists Investigate The Kerala Floods

In 2014, as floods swept Kashmir, encroachments were blamed for diminishing the holding capacity of lakes and other water bodies, aggravating the impact of the heavy rains.

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An aerial view shows partially submerged buildings at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India. VOA

As India’s southern Kerala state looks at the task of rebuilding in the aftermath of devastating floods that swept away homes, inundated farmland and destroyed infrastructure, environmentalists have raised the question: Could the damage have been reduced if more attention had been paid to sustainable development?

The floods were triggered by the most intense rains in nearly a century that lashed a picturesque state whose coastal plains and low-lying mountains beckon tens of thousands of tourists each year. Gates of overflowing dams had to be opened following heavy downpours starting August 8, sending water rushing across much of the state.

Environmental experts say a construction boom that saw houses, buildings and tourist resorts mushroom in areas that traditionally soaked up rainwater worsened the impact of the monsoon.

“There is a huge wave of construction, firstly on wetlands, which would have otherwise earlier stored water, no longer do so and encroachments on rivers,” said ecologist Madhav Gadgil, who in 2011 prepared a report for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on protecting the highlands known as Western Ghats.

Kerala Floods
An aerial view shows partially submerged road at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India. VOA

Natural resources

Gadgil said the massive construction prompted indiscriminate sand mining and quarrying in the mountains.

“A large number of landslides have occurred because of these stone quarries. Rubble from them has blocked streams and rivers,” he said. Some of the 400 victims of the recent flooding included people buried under landslides.

The rapid development in Kerala in recent decades was partly fueled by money from tourists as well as from a diaspora from the state that lives and works in Middle East countries.

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Map of Kerala, India. VOA

G.M. Pillai, the head of the World Institute of Sustainable Energy in Pune, claims the recent flooding was more devastating because of the disappearance of traditional paddy fields.

“About 80 per cent of the paddy fields in Kerala have been levelled or converted to other activities, either construction or rubber plantations. That is a huge environmental neglect,” he said. “Paddy fields are kind of wetlands in Kerala’s topography capturing water from the surrounding hills.”

Pillai, who grew up in a village in Kerala, said traditional drains have been blocked there, too.

He said the international airport, in the state’s main city, Kochi, was built close to the Periyar River and had to be closed after runways were damaged and floodwaters entered the airport. It is scheduled to reopen later this month.

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An aerial view shows partially submerged houses in flooded areas. VOA

Environmental degradation

This is not the first time that experts have drawn attention to environmental degradation as India caters to the ever-growing needs for more power, roads and homes for its 1.3 billion people. After heavy rains in 2013 triggered devastating floods and landslides in the northern state of Uttarakhand, an environmental panel said the buildup of sediment in rivers, caused by hydroelectric plants, had aggravated the flooding.

In 2014, as floods swept Kashmir, encroachments were blamed for diminishing the holding capacity of lakes and other water bodies, aggravating the impact of the heavy rains.

But others point out that the push for development cannot be ignored, Kerala, for example, has one of the highest population densities in the country, putting pressure on the land.

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Flood-affected people wait to receive food inside a college auditorium, which has been converted into a temporary relief camp, in Kochi in the southern state of Kerala. VOA

“A lot of people from the villages are coming to cities for work. So, naturally, development is necessary,” said John Samuel of the Institute for Sustainable Development and Governance in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital.

But Samuel calls for a halt to construction along riverbanks and strict observance of environmental laws.

“They have lots of houses coming, flats coming on the banks of the river. That can cause more havoc,” he said.

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Some senior officials in the state have said that Kerala will have to seek sustainable development as it rebuilds damaged homes and thousands of kilometres of eroded roadways. But others worry that the mammoth task of reconstruction will only put more pressure on resources.

“The immediate requirement is constructing infrastructure which has been lost,” Pillai said. “But along with that you should also do what I call construction of environmental infrastructure, you have to restore a lot of those paddy fields, for example, which have been lost.” (VOA)