India

India’s worst flood: Is this climate change?

  • Praveen Donthi and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times, Vijayawada/New Delhi
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  • Updated: Oct 07, 2009 02:21 IST

The catastrophe was unprecedented — flooding across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh was caused by unpredictable rainfall up to 600 per cent higher than normal, in a river basin that is the driest in the country.

As water levels receded on Tuesday after 280 deaths, and authorities scrambled to reach aid to a region where some 2.5 lakh homes are damaged, and millions affected, experts wonder if we are witnessing a manifestation of climate change.

Climate change is the alteration in weather patterns, especially increases in temperature and storm activity.

Thousands rushed to safety, trying to avoid death — and, in some areas, crocodiles. But others refused to leave.

“I stayed back only because of my two buffaloes,” said G. Raghavulu (35), an agricultural labourer from Pamurlanka village in Andhra Pradesh.

Three days of unprecedented rainfall in the Krishna and Godavari river basins. Some 700 mm over a week.

“About 400 mm of rain took place in three days. This has never happened before in India Meteorological Department (IMD) records,” S.P. Kakran, senior official in the ministry of water resources, told HT. The IMD has measured rain since 1901.

“It was up to 600 per cent higher than average, up to 800 per cent higher in a few districts,” said Dr Santosh Kumar of the home ministry’s National Institute of Disaster Management.

“Krishna and Godavari basins are considered to be the safest compared to the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins,” Kumar said. “This should be studied, whether there is a link between this and climate change.”

Hundreds of thousands of people have been moved to 1,500-odd relief camps.

Rescuers wage a doughty battle. “About 1,000 specialised teams of rescuers in over 300 motorised boats have been in the region since October 2,” said K.M. Singh, head of the National Disaster Response Force that is spearheading the rescue operations.

 

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