Why did Monsoon create Havoc in Himachal?

By | July 13, 2023


Author: Sh. Anurag Garg, Assistant Commissioner (State Taxes), HP

(Views are personal)

The monsoon is the lifeblood of the world’s fifth-largest economy as seventy-five per cent of rain come from the southwest monsoon. Still, half of our net sown area heavily depends on the monsoon, making the monsoon system very vital and important. Delay in monsoon or a deficit rain affect our food security and impact the Kharif sowing operation. Replenishing natural reservoirs, feeding power generation, factories and drinking supply all factors that depend on our monsoon.

Monsoon in 2023 is adopting the unusual pattern. Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted the normal rainfall with 96 per cent of LPA this year. (LPA means long period average is the rainfall recorded over a particular region for a given interval. Normal monsoon based on LPA of 1971-2020, during which India received 87 cm of rain for the entire country on average), with a high probability of emergence of EL Nino weather pattern and the emergence of positive IOD. IOD sometimes referred to as the Indian Nino, is like the El Nino phenomenon, occurring in the relatively smaller area of the Indian Ocean between the Indonesian and Malaysian coastline in the east and the African coastline near Somalia in the west. IOD is said to be positive when the western side of the Indian Ocean, near the Somalia coast, becomes warmer than the eastern Indian Ocean. Therefore a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) which could potentially offset the impact of El Nino.

India saw a ten per cent deficiency in rainfall till the end of June due to cyclone Biparjoy which restricted the movement of westward winds associated with the South-West monsoon. But monsoon surged over the west and north India in July and reverse the deficiency to surplus by 2 per cent. From July to till date twenty-four per cent excess rainfall has been noted. This is called an extreme heavy rainfall event. Extreme heavy rainfall event occurs when more than 204 mm of rainfall happens at any place within a 24-hour period according to IMD.

The reasons for this disastrous rain in July are:

Western disturbances: July rainfall attributed due to an interaction between the easterly moist monsoon winds and unusual western disturbances that converged over northern India near Himachal Pradesh And Punjab.

Warming of the Arabian Sea: Excess rainfall over Northwest India is consistent during the cyclone with the Arabian Sea having warmed by about 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Positive IOD: 

Climate Change: Climate change increases the possibility, frequency, and intensity of extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall.

Himachal Pradesh received 249.6 mm average rainfall from July 1 to July 11 against a normal rainfall of 76.6 mm, an excess of 226 per cent. Heavy and incessant rainfall triggered landslides, inundated the places, and damaged the infrastructure. Many people lost their lives in this havoc. Was it preventable or can the effect of flood-related disasters be minimized?  Of course, yes, here are some key takeaways.

The State government urgently need to opt State Floodplain Zoning Policy. Jal Shakti Ministry last year informed the Rajya Sabha that the states of Manipur, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir had enacted the State Floodplains Zoning Policy only till date. Earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) presented a report on preparedness and response to floods. The report pointed out that the states are yet to enact Flood Plain Zoning Legislation, 45 years after the Union Government in 1975 circulated to all states a model draft bill for Flood Plain Zoning Legislation.

This policy will determine the developmental activities in floodplains besides helping delineation of floodplain areas, notification of defined limits of flood plains, prohibiting the use of flood plains, compensation and most importantly removing obstructions to ensure the free flow of water. A robust policy is need of the hour for the state governments to regulate the development-related activities in the flood plains.

Himalayan Rivers carry a lot of sediment load during the downward movement. Deposition of sediments in the river bed reduces the carrying capacity of river and it gets easily swelled. Therefore, a Sediment Reallocation Policy is much needed, also sediments can be used in development-related activities.

Bring a transparent policy which converges the opening/closing gates of dams. w.r.t to advance weather forecasts.

Forming a water plan to recharge and utilize the aquifers during such situations eg. recharge the shallow aquifer during the waterlogging and for deeper aquifers proper rainwater harvesting policy is needed.

The State government can take immediate measures like restrictions on mining in flood-prone areas, afforestation near the flood zone areas and regulating development activities by bringing clear and transparent policy for the flood zones.

International Agreements like Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) actively promote public participation in DRR. People must understand and gain a better understanding of the risks and take ownership of initiatives in ensuring successful Disaster Risk Reduction.

Read also: Solved Paper HAS/HPAS 2022

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