Natural Disasters

Indian rivers crossed highest flood level 25 times in August 2019

This caused extreme floods in many states, according to Central Water Commission data

 
By Shagun Kapil
Last Updated: Thursday 19 September 2019
Yamuna crossed danger mark in August and water entered people's homes in New Delhi. Photo: Vikas Choudhary

Floods wreaked havoc in most parts of the country in August 2019 after various rivers at 25 stations crossed their highest flood level (HFL), according to Central Water Commission (CWC) data.

The flood situation is extreme when the water level of a river touches or crosses the HFL recorded at any forecasting site so far, read the CWC definition.

For example, two rivers in Maharashtra — Warna and Krishna — and one in Karnataka — Dudhganga — not only crossed danger marks but also the HFL of 2005 on August 8 and 9. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka suffered damages in devastating deluges last month.

Water level of Warna in Sangli rose to 546.954 metre on August 9 when its HFL was 546.324 m from August 5, 2005, according to CWC's Samdoli station records. Same day, Krishna touched 544.185 m at Arjunwad station and this was beyond its HFL (543.69 m) in 2005.

Similarly, Godavari in Nashik rose to 563.31 m on August 8 when its HFL was 563.01 m from August 2, 2016.

July had seen just one episode of extreme flood situation when Kamalabalan in Madhubani district of Bihar rose to 53.01 m, which was beyond its HFL and the danger level (50 m).

Climate change’s doing

Climate change has impacted India severely. Extreme rainfall events and widespread floods have increased manifold over the last several decades.

States like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat received 36, 30, 22, and 31 per cent more rainfall than normal between June 1 and September 18, 2019. This is the highest among the big states of India.

Moreover, rise in average global temperatures led to a worrying trend of no rain for long periods and then a sudden bout of excessive rainfall causing extreme weather events, particularly floods. Such floods take lives, destroy homes and agricultural yields as well as result in huge revenue losses.

Kerala was reeling under a seasonal rainfall deficit of 27 per cent till August 7. But between August 1 and 7, the saw 22 per cent excess rainfall and then on August 8 it received 368 per cent more rainfall than normal, which led to floods, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD) records.

By August 13, the incessant rainfall in the state reduced the seasonal deficit to 3 per cent. The floods ended up killing more than 100 people and displacing 1.9 lakh.

Floods are also a result of gross mismanagement of dams and lack of coordination between states.

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