Bursts of sudden rainfall — like the 600-per-cent-higher rain that caused deadly floods in southern India — have gone up by 10 to 15 per cent across India, and it is affecting what millions of farmers are growing.
Experts wonder whether those numbers — culled by scientists from official monsoon data — are signs of climate change. Climate change is the rising of global temperatures, believed to cause a shift in weather patterns.
Dr D.N. Goswami, director of Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said rainfall data from 1951 to 2000 showed the frequency of sudden rainfall had increased by 10 per cent in India. Such rain often destroys crops.
“Incidence of flash floods may increase in coming years,” Goswami said. “South Indian floods may be an extreme case … but such rain incidents will increase in coming years because of the impact of climate change on monsoons.”
Other studies have found similar patterns.
All that has two men in Andhra Pradesh flummoxed.
“Just when we had declared drought in the state, this unprecedented rainfall came in two districts,” Dinesh Kumar, state disaster management secretary told HT.
“For three months there was no rain and in five days it rained so much that it will be sufficient for the whole year.”
Outside Vijaywada town, farmers in the Krishna basin are traumatised after the destruction of high investment crops like cotton, sugarcane and turmeric.
“For turmeric, we have to invest Rs 50,000 per acre. But now we don’t know when floods will come, so we have to think of short duration crops like lady finger, brinjal, chillies or pulses,” said farmer Adinarayana, 36, of Pamurlanka village.
Unprecedented rainfall occurred for three days starting October 1 in the Krishna and Godavari river basins. Some 700 mm lashed down over a week.
“Rain patterns are changing faster than what we can realise,” said R.K. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of United Nations. “It’ll have a huge impact on human lives and agriculture and we need to adapt to it.”
But India is girding to face the challenge. Agriculture researchers in Orissa have developed rice varieties that grow in a shorter time-period. Some wheat varieties that can cope with temperature variance of up to four degrees Celsius are being tested.
And the Centre is pumping money into research on farm crops. “We have identified 10 research institutions all over the country to develop crop varieties that meet the challenges of changing weather patterns,” said an official of the agriculture ministry, not willing to be quoted as he isn’t authorised to speak to the media.