Is it climate change?
As many as 10,440 villages, spread over 15 of Odisha's 30 districts were identified as drought-hit till September. Inadequate rainfall claimed more than 50 per cent of paddy crop this monsoon. Though the state managed to save lives when Phailin struck, the super cyclone caused massive damage to infrastructure and destroyed standing crops worth Rs 2,300 crore. The state that was reeling under drought till September is now crippled by floods.
Odisha's fluctuating weather conditions suggest that it is reeling under climatic chaos, claims a case study on the state by World Wildlife Fund-India (WWF). For more than a decade now, the state has experienced contrasting extreme weather conditions claiming many lives: from heat waves to cyclones, from droughts to floods. They have not only become more frequent, but have hit areas that were never considered vulnerable. As a result, Odisha's economy has taken a severe hit. Agriculture, which is considered the state's backbone, is the worst affected because of changes in micro-climate and natural calamities.
During the past decade, the state has faced one or other form of disasters like floods, cyclone, tornado or drought every year. From 1891 to 2000, 98 cyclones/severe cyclones crossed the Odisha coast. This is more than that of the coast of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharastra, Goa, Gujarat and Kerala.
During monsoons last year, Odisha received a total rainfall of 1,144 mm against the normal of 1,149 mm between June 1 and September 30. This year, the state received 1,120 mm rain till September-end. But October changed things dramatically—in the first half of the month, the state received at least 220 mm rain against the normal rainfall of 74 mm, a massive 195 per cent excess rainfall.
The state had received about 1,189 mm rain last year between June and October. This year, it has been 1,248 mm. But October 2012 witnessed 69 mm rain; in October this year, the state received 220 mm rains. During August 2013, the state received deficient and scanty rainfall for three weeks. The week ending August 7 had 40 per cent deficient rainfall followed by 29 per cent deficit the next week. The week ending August 28 saw the deficiency rising to 68 per cent, says state's hydrology data from Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
Similar pattern prevailed in September when first three weeks reported 40-plus per cent rain deficiency. According to Odisha revenue and disaster management minister, S N Patro, about 90 of the 314 blocks in the state received inadequate rainfall during this monsoon. While Mayurbhanj district was the worst drought-hit, Balasore had been identified as least affected district.
Now in October 28 districts are grappling with excess rainfall. Mayurbhanj once again bore the brunt with 439 per cent excess rainfall (435 mm against the normal of 80.7 mm). Districts such as Deogarh, Balasore, Sundargarh, Sambalpur and Sonepur have recorded over 300 per cent excess shower to deal with.
Apart from the coastal districts (Puri, Ganjam, Nayagarh, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Gajapati, Balasore, Bhadrak, Khurda, Cuttack, Keonjhar and Balasore) that suffered the maximum during Cyclone Phailin, flash floods ravaged six districts of Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Jajpur and Ganjam.
Due to heavy rainfall from October 12-14, the Baitarani, Budhabalanga, Rushikulya, Subarnarekha and Jalaka rivers witnessed floods/flash floods affecting the downstream areas of Bhadrak, Keonjhar, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Ganjam and Jajpur districts.
It's climate variability, says one expert
U C Mohanty, professor with School of Earth, Ocean and Climate Sciences of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bhubaneswar, says that the amount of rainfall that the state received in a span of just one month is indeed unusual and this is because of climate variability and not climate change. “First of all, we had Phailin because of which several districts received as much as 40 cm rainfall. Then after a week, there was a low pressure formation. Third factor was a trough line that passed parallel to the coast because of which there was strong easterly currents,” he explains.
He says that there is no direct link between the current events and climate change. “If you see cyclone occurrences in the past 100 years, Odisha had been getting getting one or two cyclones every year. But since 1999 cyclone, Phailin was the first to strike the state,” he said. Such rains wouldn’t be there every year, he added.
|Maximum excess rainfall recorded in Mayurbhanj district|
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