Climate Change

800 stranded in Arunachal’s West Kameng after cloudburst

The cloudburst comes after a lean monsoon season in the state

 
By Akshit Sangomla
Last Updated: Tuesday 09 July 2019
Monsoon clouds engulf the mountains near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: Getty Images
Monsoon clouds engulf the mountains near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: Getty Images Monsoon clouds engulf the mountains near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. Photo: Getty Images

Extremely heavy rainfall and flash floods occurred in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district due to a cloud burst on the evening of July 8.

A cloudburst is different from rain only in the amount of water that pours down on the ground. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) labels rainfall over 100 mm per hour as a ‘cloudburst’. Usually, small areas, anywhere between 20-80 square kilometres, are affected.

The cloudburst has caused large-scale devastation and the stranding of 800 people, according to local media reports. In April, Bomdila, the district headquarters of West Kameng, had also suffered from a cloud burst.

The cloudburst came after a lean monsoon season in Arunachal.

West Kameng still suffers from a rainfall deficit of 47 per cent in the current monsoon season.

Seven other districts also suffer from deficits of greater than 40 per cent. The Tawang district has had only 16 per cent of its normal monsoon rainfall till July 8, while the Dibang valley and Anjaw have had 21 and 22 per cent of normal rainfall.

Even though Arunachal Pradesh is a rain-rich state and receives anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 mm of annual rainfall, the past ten years have been dismal. Between 2009 and 2018, the state has had deficit rainfall in all years, with large deficits of 34, 32, 30 and 26 per cent in 2011, 2018, 2013 and 2009 respectively.

Last year’s deficit had created fears of a water crisis in the state when its environment minister declared at a local meeting that 200 small streams and rivulets had dried up. He put the blame on the changing climate in the region and also on the practice of shifting cultivation in the state.

Though climate science predicts changes in the general distribution of rainfall in different regions in the long term, studies need to be conducted on the extent to which such processes are happening in Arunachal Pradesh, which seems to be battling both, extreme local rainfall and extended dry conditions.

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