Natural Disasters

Scant July rainfall: India may face drought, floods again

Long periods of no rain and then a sudden bout of excessive rainfall have become the hallmark of Indian monsoon in the last few years

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Wednesday 10 July 2019

If the southwestern monsoon does not strengthen significantly and improve in distribution in the coming months, large parts of India will stare at drought, again.

Rainfall deficiency was 40 per cent or more in 266 districts (until July 7, 2019). For nearly half of them, the deficiency was greater than 60 per cent; in 46 districts it exceeded 80 per cent.

Many of the high-deficit districts are in north India, where the monsoon arrived recently, but the situation is dire even in the south and the east, where the winds have been there for a while. Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where the monsoon arrived by June 8, are reeling under large deficits of 45 and 48 per cent respectively.

Deficit districts 

Of Tamil Nadu's 32 districts, 19 have a deficit of at least 40 per cent, 14 of which are at 60 per cent or more. Ramanathapuram has had no rain this season while four other districts have deficits more than 90 per cent.

All districts of Puducherry have at least 40 per cent rainfall deficiency. After the devastating floods in Kerala last year and an unusual heat wave in March this year, the dismal monsoon has brought fears of drought in the Union territory. Despite a month of monsoon, rainfall in 10 of the 14 districts has been at least 40 per cent below normal.

Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have fared better, but there are still pockets with deficits. In Telangana again, 11 of the 31 districts have a rainfall deficiency of more than 40 per cent.

West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand have 14, 15 and 27 districts, respectively, with deficiency of of more than 40 per cent.

The North East, which has suffered from an extended dry period since last monsoon, has no respite in sight. Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are reeling under deficits of 63 and 33 per cent respectively. Fifty per cent of the districts in Arunachal Pradesh and 90 per cent of the districts in Manipur have deficits more than 40 per cent.

Floods, drought in store

The situation might only be turning more severe as the monsoon is going to take a break after July 15 after a week of active rainfall, according to Skymet Weather Services, a private weather agency.

This means that overall July rainfall might also be deficit. It is scary, as six of India’s worst droughts between 1877 and 2005 have been caused by deficient rainfall in July, according to an analysis of The Indian Meteorological Department's rainfall data by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.

Besides, the period of active rainfall might also bring isolated heavy rainfall in some districts of Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, which can lead to flooding.

Bihar and Assam will witness this rainfall after a period of lull. Such periods of no rain and then a sudden bout of excessive rainfall have become the hallmark of the Indian monsoon in the last few years. The phenomenon has pushed many regions in a vicious cycle of drought and floods.

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