Monday, September 29, 2014

Time to ‘follow’ the floods in India

An opinion piece on the Climate & Development Knowledge Network: The scale of the devastation and damage in the recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir, the contested territory between India and Pakistan, has not been seen in this area for a hundred years. Flood damage, according to the chief minister, could go beyond ‘many thousands of crores’. Irreversible damage to key infrastructures such as roads, telecommunication, hospitals, and water supply systems and many small and medium enterprises in the Kashmir valley is likely to further escalate this cost.

Flood, as a natural hazard, has been a recurring phenomenon in many parts of India, and more so during the monsoon. States of Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand witnessed floods of various intensities during this year’s monsoon. Even semi-arid regions of Rajasthan witnessed flood-like situations because of unusual and heavy rainfalls in the region. At the same time, and perhaps ironically, these devastating flooding events took place amidst widespread speculations of a strong El-Nino for India this year and forecast of a deficit monsoon resulting in 1.75% decline in its GDP.

Such cases of extreme rainfall events have become frequent and intense in India. Of significant concern is the predicted and reported extreme fluctuations in the dry and wet spells of the South Asian summer monsoon. A statistically significant increase in the intensity of wet spells has already been reported.

As this extreme weather phenomena results in an increasing number of hydro-meteorological hazards, the consequent loss and damage involved is also increasing. The Uttarakhand flooding, triggered by unusually extreme rainfalls in the Himalayas, was the second deadliest hydro-meteorological disaster in 2013, after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The resulting economic and insured losses were to the tune of USD1.9 billion and USD 85 million respectively....

A flood in India, location unknown, shot by Rakesh, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license 

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