Thousands displaced, 24 dead, as excess rain and overflowing dams flood central India
An overflowing Narmada threw life out of gear in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and water released from the Hirakud dam flooded several districts of Odisha on the weekend. At least 24 people were killed in flooding in MP and Odisha. and thousands were displaced as heavy rainfall lashed other parts of India, causing reservors to overflow.
Rainfall has been 25% more than normal in August, which India Meteorological Department (IMD) is the highest for the month in 44 years. The previous highest in August was recorded in 1983, when rain was 23.8% more than the normal.
In Madhya Pradesh, at least eight people were killed in the past 24 hours and more than 9,000 were moved to relief camps during rescue operations; 454 villages in 12 districts of Madhya Pradesh have been affected by the floods caused by incessant rain since Thursday. The latest fatalities took the rain- and flood-related death toll in MP to 129 since this monsoon. Sixteen people died in flooding in Odisha, officials said.
Flood-hit districts in the state include Hoshangabad, Raisen, Sehore, Bhopal, Vidisha, Chhindwara, Balaghat, Seoni, Katni, Sagar, Shivpuri and Ujjain. A large number of people were airlifted to safety with the help of air force helicopters; they included 62 residents of Somalwada village in Sehore district.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday morning and sought his help in rescue operations being carried on by National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Home Guards, police and personnel of other departments.
“The rescue operations have been continuing since Friday evening. There are 454 villages in 12 districts affected by the flood. As many as 9,300 people have been moved to 170 relief camps,” Chouhan said, adding that he was monitoring the flood situation from a control room set up at his residence. He said huge damage had been caused to standing crops and added that farmers will be compensated with crop insurance and other relief schemes.
Large parts of the Narmada river basin in Gujarat were flooded as excess water was released from the Sardar Sarovar dam in the state and dams in Madhya Pradesh.
According to home ministry data, until Sunday, 175 people had died because in floods in Gujarat with half the deaths reported in August. “We are providing relief and relocating people from the worst affected areas,” PTI quoted chief minister Vijay Rupani as saying.
Over 800,000 have been affected across 500 villages of Odisha, said Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Kumar Jena on Sunday. He said 50,000 people evacuated to safe shelters.
According to the the Central Water Commission’s update dated August 29, eight dams have overflown including the Tawa dam in MP on the river Narmada; Rengali dam in Odisha on river Brahmani; and Hidkal in Karnataka on Ghataptrabha.
River Mahanadi in parts of Chhattisgarh; Wainganga and Narmada in MP are rising rapidly because of heavy rain forecast for the next two days, CWC said.
“It’s a dangerous situation. Any dam that reaches full reservoir level when monsoon is still underway can be disastrous for districts downstream. The dam operators should have released water gradually and not when it’s already 100%. Naramada, Mahanadi and Godavari basins are affected. CWC and dam operators should have been aware of the likely inflow and planned release accordingly,” said Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People.
The well-marked low pressure area over West Madhya Pradesh and adjoining East Rajasthan is likely to move west-northwestwards during the next two days, IMD said in its Sunday bulletin.
“Extremely heavy rain in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of central India is mainly because of a strong low pressure area over west Madhya Pradesh and east Rajasthan. We are expecting rain to decrease gradually over central India but Gujarat may experience very heavy rains for one more day. Then rains will increase over the northern plains when the monsoon trough shifts northwards around September 2,” said M Mohapatra, director general, IMD.
The western end of the monsoon trough (line of low pressure) lies south to its normal position and its eastern end lies close to foothills of the Himalayas. Under the influence of these systems, widespread and very heavy to extremely heavy rain is likely over Gujarat on August 30 and 31. Widespread rain with very heavy rain is likely over West Madhya Pradesh and north Konkan on August 30 and over Rajasthan on August 30 and 31.
“We are not expecting any low-pressure area to develop next week so we are hoping rain will gradually reduce in central India. Rains may increase over northwest India, northeast India and south Peninsula particularly Kerala-Karnataka region,” said RK Jenamani, senior scientist at the National Weather Forecasting Centre.
Excess rains could ensure soil moisture for months. “There are different ways of harvesting water. But the most important source of water for agriculture is groundwater, more than both dams and rivers. So the focus should be on local storage and local recharge systems. We have to store rainwater where it falls and avoid runoff,” added Thakkar.
Monsoon rain over the country since June 1 has been 9% excess with 21% excess over the southern Peninsula; 19% excess over central India; 11% deficiency over northwest India and 3% over east and northeast India.
According to Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region, a report by the ministry of earth sciences released earlier this year, from 1950 onwards there has been a significant rising trend in the frequency and intensity of extreme and heavy rain events over central India, along with a decreasing trend in moderate rain events.
A study published in Nature journal in 2017 by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology had concluded that there had been a three-fold rise in extreme rains along the west coast and central India during 1950 to 2015