Dry dams portend looming distress - Hindustan Times
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Dry dams portend looming distress

ByHT Editorial
May 22, 2024 12:36 AM IST

The climate crisis is changing the monsoon pattern and leading to short bursts of heavy rain rather than extended rainfall across the season

The monsoon has arrived in the Andaman Sea and is expected to hit the Kerala coast on May 31. Meanwhile, an intense heat wave is sweeping northern India while water levels in the country’s 150 reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission are alarmingly low at just 25% of their total capacity. The storage position in most of these reservoirs is lower than the corresponding period of last year and less than the normal storage. Particularly striking is the deficiency in the Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery basins, which can have a debilitating impact on meeting drinking water needs, irrigation and hydropower generation.

Beed, India. Mar 29,2024 : A man was seen walking on a dry lake at Chandapur village in Beed district. Due to the lack of rain in the state this year, the water level in many lakes in Marathwada has decreased. In the next few months, Marathwada is expected to face a shortage of water. More than 70% of Maharashtra's talukas are facing a drought. As temperatures soar with summer approaching, a water crisis is looming with the live water storage in the state's dams down. The arid Marathwada region has the lowest dam water storage, down to 21.3% of capacity compared with 46% at this time last year. Mar 29,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo) PREMIUM
Beed, India. Mar 29,2024 : A man was seen walking on a dry lake at Chandapur village in Beed district. Due to the lack of rain in the state this year, the water level in many lakes in Marathwada has decreased. In the next few months, Marathwada is expected to face a shortage of water. More than 70% of Maharashtra's talukas are facing a drought. As temperatures soar with summer approaching, a water crisis is looming with the live water storage in the state's dams down. The arid Marathwada region has the lowest dam water storage, down to 21.3% of capacity compared with 46% at this time last year. Mar 29,2024. (Photo by Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

Major cities of southern India including Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad have reported major water crises, with rationing mooted in parts of the Karnataka capital. The storage in Kerala’s reservoirs is better than for the corresponding period last year, but an extended dry spell has forced the government to declare it the state’s worst drought in 40 years. Exceptionally high temperatures have led to a spike in power demand, which governments are struggling to meet since power generation from hydro-power projects is under stress. The situation has been blamed on El Nino conditions that impacted both the monsoons last year. An above-normal Southwest monsoon is predicted this year with La Nina conditions, a weather phenomenon known for bringing excess rainfall, which, hopefully, will offset the fall in agriculture output.

However, states must prepare to ensure that the La Nina bounty is not wasted. Much of the water crisis in summer months has to do with the failure to augment storage during the monsoon. Reservoirs, ponds, and tanks need to be dredged ahead of the season so that excess rainfall is conserved. The climate crisis is changing the monsoon pattern and leading to short bursts of heavy rain rather than extended rainfall across the season. This can have disastrous implications such as urban flooding in the absence of infrastructure to channel the excess water.

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