After drought, Bengal may have to face floods

KOLKATA, 11 SEPT: While 11 districts of the state have been declared drought-hit, experts apprehend a possibility of a late cloud burst during September end to the beginning of October that may lead to devastating floods in the state.
Dr GC Debnath, director of the Alipore meteorological department, however ruled out a way to predict any such possibility. He said though there will be active rainfall activity over the districts such as Birbhum, Murshidabad, Nadia and Malda in the next couple of days, this will not be enough to bring down the deficit percentage. “Beyond 10 days, we do not have rainfall forecast for any particular area,” he said.
The cloud burst would, however, only lead to worsening of the current situation as with sudden rains, the chances of water run-off would increase and there would be negligible infiltration of the rainwater into ground water, already on the decline. This would further increase dependence of the state on the ground water whose level is already on the decline, said Dr Kalyan Rudra, river expert.
Experts feel that due to climate change the rainfall pattern has changed over the years. The South Bengal districts have been suffering from 35 per cent rainfall deficit this year. Last year, the rainfall deficit in the state was 14 per cent.
Mr Rudra also said that the rainfall amount has not decreased but the pattern of rainfall has changed due to climate change. This shift will invariably affect the crop pattern and the state has to brace for related threats such as food security.
“The rhythm of the monsoons has been completely disrupted. And the excess rainfall expected later in the month cannot be called compensation for the deficit. It is a hydrological extreme, one of the effects of climate change,” he added.
He said that there should ideally be 1300 mm rainfall in the four monsoon months from June to September. So, from June to August, there should have been at least 900 mm of rainfall. However, because of the 35 per cent deficit, the remaining rainfall may occur during the month of September alone. This increases the chances of a flood-like situation.
Dr Debnath, however, refutes these observations. He says that rainfall levels may have gone down in the last two or three years, but it cannot be attributed to climate change,” said Dr Debnath.
The scientists of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or NATCOM state that apart from direct impact of agriculture due to reduced rainfall, trends indicate more frequent droughts followed by less severe droughts. There has also been an overall increasing trend in the severe storms along the coast at the rate of 0.011 event per year.

Soma Basu

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