Monsoon has changed, so must we
In a Q&A with TOI a month ago, secretary of ministry of earth sciences Madhavan Nair Rajeevan had discussed the changing nature of the Indian monsoon, where while the total quantum of the rainfall is not changing much the length of the dry spells over the 122 days of the monsoon season is increasing.
He explained that this means when it rains it rains very heavily. The corollary is that the wait for the rains is longer. It is in keeping with this analysis that the destructive spell of flooding seen since last week features several regions like the Kodagu district of Karnataka: it was facing drought-like conditions until May but is now recovering from an unpleasant deluge. In late June 65% of the country’s reservoirs were reported to be running dry, with Maharashtra being the worst affected. This month there has been so much flooding in the state that more than 40 people died and nearly 5 lakh had to be evacuated.
When questioned about how the state’s mismanagement of dams had worsened the flood situation, water resources (command area) secretary Rajendra Pawar said, “This is an abnormal situation … It was beyond our capacity to tackle the situation … Just in the first week of August, we have received rainfall that is normally received till October 15, when the monsoon officially ends.” But what if the abnormal is the new normal?
What good is blaming climate change without changing our ground game? That will not save lives or livelihoods. We have to manage the water flow much better when it rains, both to reduce the rain damage when it pours and to prevent droughts when it doesn’t.
For example, let’s improve dam management, where better coordination between states is a key part. Then there are the many different ways to help ensure that the monsoon water leaches into the ground or flows into the sea etc instead of overflowing into our homes or sweeping them away. These are well known. Like in Mumbai restoring the health of the Mithi river, its biggest natural drain, has to be a priority alongside upgrading the man-made drains. Right now large parts of our cities do not even have proper drains, forget properly maintained ones.
On the other side of the equation, let’s do water harvesting. Let’s improve groundwater recharge. As Rajeevan says, let farmers also think of storing water in tanks, ponds etc during rainy spells and use this water during the dry periods. All this is doable. Change the mindset, to meet the climate change challenge.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.