Monsoons and India

Caught between floods and droughts


September 4, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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Getting an ideal quantity of rain, or even an average one, seems more and more like a dream as the monsoons play truant in India, pushing the country between a drought and a flood.

On August 29, Mumbai, India’s financial and film capital, came to a standstill following an unusually heavy downpour that dumped over 40 cm of rain in less than 24 hours. The rain was ill-timed as it had come after three months of a very healthy monsoon, which had already given Mumbai  its total annual rain of over two metres, leaving the city’s soil rather saturated. The  water bodies around this sea side city too were flooded and left with no more potential to absorb excess drainage Adding to the misery was the highest tide of the season that saw the Arabian Sea also dump its waters on the Maximum City.

Mumbai followed Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and the north-eastern city of Agartala, which have all experienced severe flooding due to heavy rainfall in less than a day. While the problems of the denizens of these cities were over within a matter of days, not everyone else around India was as fortunate.

Millions of people in eastern and north-eastern India have been caught in severe floods that have now lasted nearly a month. The worst-hit, almost every year, are residents of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with Gujarat and Rajasthan joining the list this year. Over 1000 persons have lost their lives in floods this year, while over 10 million have seen their farms, homes and businesses go and stay under water for weeks as most of India’s largest rivers continue to be in spate.

Despite the floods, which seem to have become an annual feature, India would always welcome a bit more rain than a bit less as the three months of monsoons provide irrigation to nearly 60 percent of the country’s farms, recharge the fast-dropping water table across the nation, refill the rivers and lakes, and also dump fresh snow in the Himalayas, which store the water on which  the lives of most of the country’s northern population depend upon.

While in 2017 the monsoons may have been normal or slightly above normal, Indian farmers are unlikely to forget that for three years before that, the rain was erratic in most parts of the country, and scanty in many, driving the smaller farmers deeper into debt trap and thousands of them were left with no option but to commit suicides. Little wonder then that Indians look forward to the monsoons every year!

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