Natural Disasters

Extreme weather in India: Heavy rains, floods on 18 days of rainfall-deficient November 2022

The events in November were spread across 12 states / Union territories, most of them in South Peninsula & Northwest regions

By Kiran Pandey, Rajit Sengupta
Published: Thursday 29 December 2022
Extreme weather in India: Heavy rains, floods on 18 days of rainfall-deficient November 2022
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

India experienced a dry November in 2022, with a 37 per cent rainfall deficit from the long-period average. Still, on 18 of the 30 days in the month, some parts of the country recorded heavy rains, floods and landslides, according to India’s Atlas on Weather Disasters released by the Down To Earth-Centre for Science and Environment Data Centre. 

Overall, the month saw extreme weather events on 20 days, which included lightning and storms (five days), cold wave (two days) and snowfall (one day), besides heavy rains, floods and landslides. 

The events claimed 54 human lives, or nearly two deaths a day on average. They also affected 153,000 hectares (ha) of cropped area, damaged 467 houses and killed 509 animals. 

The events in November were spread across 12 states / Union territories, most of them in the South Peninsula and the Northwest regions. 

Tamil Nadu was the worst hit with heavy rainfall, floods and landslides on 15 days. On three of the 15, the state also recorded lightning and storms. 

The southern state reported 21 human deaths and accounted for the entire cropped area affected in the month. What is also notable is that the state did not see its cropped area affected by extreme weather events in the first 10 months of 2022.

The year so far 

The country experienced extreme weather events on 291 of the 334 days from January 1 to November 30, 2022, which claimed 3,006 lives, affected 1.96 million ha crop area, 423,249 houses and killed over 69,899 animals.

Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of days with extreme weather events (144), followed by Assam (141), Maharashtra (126), Uttar Pradesh (124) and Himachal Pradesh (109). In fact, 34 states / UTs recorded days with extreme weather events in 2022.

Himachal Pradesh (391 deaths) and five other states recorded more than 200 deaths due to extreme weather events this year. These states cumulatively account for 58 per cent of the overall deaths from such events. 

Curious case of disappearing numbers 

The India’s Atlas on Weather Disasters sources its loss and damage data from the National Disaster Management Division of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, India Meteorological Department and media reports. The Disaster Management Division releases cumulative figures on human lives lost, cropped area affected, houses damaged and animals killed.

However, there are discrepancies in these figures. For instance, Sikkim had 3,965 houses damaged by extreme weather events till October 2022. A month later, the cumulative number of damaged houses reduced to 3,935.

Similar data discrepancies were recorded in previous months as well. India recorded 1,843,543 ha of cropped area affected till September 2022. By the end of October, the total affected cropped area decreased by over 36,000 ha to 1,807,137 ha. 

The problem lies with Uttar Pradesh, which, despite being the worst-affected in October, saw 81,793 ha reduction in the area between September and October. Such a drop in cumulative numbers is statistically not possible.

A similar discrepancy can also be seen in animal deaths. By the end of September, Maharashtra reported 4,330 animal deaths. A month later, the state’s cumulative number of animal deaths decreased to 4,301.

Such gaps were also observed in the loss and damage information furnished by the state governments. While 34 states / UTs recorded days with extreme weather events this year, only 15 reported crop area loss. 

This looks unlikely as the list of states with no crop loss data includes Madhya Pradesh, which has seen the maximum number of days with extreme weather events and agrarian states like Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Poor loss and damage accounting has a direct impact on the rehabilitation of people. The issue was also at the heart of the recently concluded 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Sharam El-Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders agreed to a loss and damage finance facility. 

India has plans to demand climate funds under the facility, for which it will need to get its loss and damage numbers right.

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