Fierce floods play havoc in several States as Monsoon comes with fury, but not yet to the north

By Lalith Sethi. Dated: 8/19/2019 1:02:18 AM

The monsoon hit all the coastal States as well as Central India and Eastern India with fury, 15 States in all, with its fierceness. It is playing havoc with town and country. Mumbai and Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala have been left with over hundred deaths accounted for that is bodies recovered, tens of thousands rescued, yet destruction and unprecedented harm. But Tamil Nadu is not yet covered because the formal monsoon there happens in December.
The Kodagu district of Karnataka recorded 212 mm of rain in 24 hours until 8.30 a.m. on Friday, August 9. This was followed by Uttara Kannada district, which received 109 mm of rainfall and Shivmonga hill region received 107 mm. The Chief Minister is camping in the flood ravaged northern Karnataka. Such heavy showers in a northern State of India would disrupt it completely for weeks, though that may also be the fate of Karnataka.
Karnataka has agreed to release half a million cusecs from the Almatti Dam downstream of the Krishna river to help bring down the flood levels in western Maharashtra. It could help water stressed Tamil Nadu to receive some water. Five thousand trucks are stranded on the Mumbai-Bangaluru highway. Sangli district is the worst affected area by floods in Maharashtra.
Wayanad, which has elected Rahul Gandhi to the Lok Sabha, is the worst hit in Kerala, besides Malapuram and Idduki Dam. In Andhra 1.5 million flood waters are flowing into a barrage on the Godavari river and is being discharged into the Bay of Bengal through the Delta canal systems.
This is the second round of floods mayhem, first round in June having enveloped Bihar and Assam, which have been recovering from the June floods, but they could be hit again. But the rains are advancing slowly towards north-western India, the clouds drying up after about an hour's rain in a week. While it rained in Delhi on August 5, August 8, 9, 10 and 11. had bright sunshine after two or three weeks, with hardly any cloud cover even in the morning. The weather office sometimes forecasts, but at the end of the day reports a trace of rain or no rain. Delhi remains heat wave wound as the rest of north-western India.
Eight farmers commit suicide every day in Maharashtra, many more elsewhere in the country, according to one estimate. Officials might disagree, but non-governmental agencies would say eight suicides is a gross under-estimate.
If in certain places there is a glut of certain vegetables via the genetic mode, the prices or compensation farmers receive is very low rather than the promised 50% plus the actual cost of production. The hard labour in growing the crops goes waste as there are no takers for the produce and they have to sell it off at distressing low prices or dump it as waste, especially potatoes in winter.
The rain deficit in the flooded areas has not only been wiped out, but it is at least28% in excess and rising. Even though Delhi and its neighbourhood and beyond have received miniscule rain, the weather man hopes that it will catch up; better late than never. It would still provide relief by re-charging ground water reservoirs and perhaps make life a little easier for the rest of year, especially winter until February next year.
Water bodies are drying up on the land mass, especially in India, and being overtaken by builders as are forests being encroached by the forest contractors who cut many more trees than they are allowed to; the mafia is not new. The contractors call themselves the rajas or kings of the green cover in cahoots with the forest officers. Sand mining in river beds is rampant as in mountains stone quarrying to denude hills, though Mussoorie range was restored some decades ago. But is the ecological and economic disaster in the making.
The monsoon season is the time of Vana Mahotsava, the great festival of planting of saplings for new trees to restore big and small forests as well as plant saplings outside homes with open spaces, besides roadsides in town and country. The Railways of India have huge spaces along railway lines all over India and they have started planting millions of saplings. How many of these will survive in rain and shine or droughts that follow the rainy season? Even if 15 to 50 per cent saplings survive, it will be a fruitful result. They help re-charge ground water reservoirs.
Almost a quarter of world's population of 8 billion or more lives in 17 countries and it faces high water stress. India ranks 13 and has three times the combined population of the 16 other nations at risk. These countries are close to Day Zero when taps run dry. Nearly all of north-western India is facing this crisis, but large chunks of land in southern India in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telengana and Andhra face crises of water as there is no winter down South because it is close to the Equator. The recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but big chunks of land experience chronic water stress.
Bihar and Assam have annual visitation of the river of sorrow, the Kosi from Nepal and Assam is hit by open floodgates of the Brahmaputra originating in Tibet. Buses full of tourists and pilgrims fall down gorges as roads have landslides in torrential rains during the monsoon months in Uttarakhand and other hill States.
In the Himalayas, glaciers are melting and retreating. This makes lakes insecure when dammed by ice. These dams are at risk of breaking, causing a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) with flows as much as 10,000 cubic metres a second.
Studies of the glaciers and their lakes were carried out in 1988 by a joint Sino-Nepalese team. The Arun-Koshi river basin hosts 737 glaciers and 229 glacier lakes, out of which 24 lakes are potentially dangerous.
The Sun-Koshi basin is home to 45 glacier lakes, of which 10 are potentially dangerous. According to a Sino-Nepalese study, since the 1940s on at least 10 occasions, glacier lakes burst their dams. Among them were five bursts in three glacier lakes in the Arun River Basin and four in three glacier lakes of the Sun Koshi River Basin. --(IFS)
Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.



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