The annual monsoon rainfall had decreased by 34%, while there was a 69% deficit in the North-East monsoons.

Kerala officially declared drought affected
news Environment Monday, October 31, 2016 - 15:49

As foreseen by environmentalists, severe drought has hit Kerala this year. On Monday, Kerala Revenue Minister E Chandrashekharan officially pronounced the state as drought-affected in the state Legislative Assembly.

The Minister’s declaration was based on the report filed by state Disaster Management Aauthority. He said that the annual monsoon rainfall had decreased by 34%, while there was a 69% deficit in the North-East monsoons.

Between 01 June to 30 September 2016, Kerala received only 1352.3mm rain, as against the normal rainfall of 2039.7mm.

The state hence faced an imminent threat of acute shortage of electricity, drinking-water as well as water for agricultural purposes, as the dam-water in the state had reduced   by around 22% on an average, when compared to last year.

Two days ago, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too had warned that Kerala would most likely face a severe drought-like situation, due to a drastic reduction in rainfall during the monsoons.

Dr. Binesh K -senior scientist at the Kerala Institute for Climate Change Studies- told The News Minute that in Kerala, since majority of the people were dependent on ground-water for daily living, even a small dip in the rains would sorely affect the state.

“Kerala usually receives rainfall, three times higher than the neighbouring states, and two times higher than the national average. That was what made the monsoons special in Kerala. But the sad truth is that, even when we receive around 3000mm rainfall, we make use only a very small portion of it. Most of the rainwater reaches the sea within a span of 48 to 72 hours due to Kerala’s landscape and unique topographic features. Hence, only ground-water gets retained. We make use of only 8000 million cubic feet of the surface water available. Even a small dip in the rainfall therefore severely affects the entire state.” 

He warned that the present trend of reduced rainfall would continue in the coming years.  

“Rainfall in the state has considerably decreased in the last few years. Last year, the rains fell short by 26%; this year, it is 34%. This alarming trend could continue in the coming years. This can probably be attributed to the global climate change phenomenon, high rates of deforestation and destruction of wet-land areas. Reduction in rainfall upto 19% or so can be considered normal, but when the figures get almost doubled, it harbours sure signs of an upcoming drought.”

Dr.V.Subhash Chandra Bose -Director at Communication and Capacity Development Unit (CCDU) at the state Water Resource Department- says that drought-signs were visible from the beginning of the year itself.

“Ideally, we should get 10% of rainfall during the summers. The state receives the rest of its share during the monsoons. But this time around, Kerala had neither summer rains nor the monsoons. The North-East monsoons are a must for agriculture, but that too was considerably less in 2016. Kerala receives ‘orographic’ rainfall which depends on the Western Ghats. So senseless deforestation of the Western Ghats could be a major reason,” he opines.

He believes that the actual effect of the drought would be felt only when summer begins, and that it would be worse than previous years. 

30-40 years ago -he remarks- rainwater which fell on the Western Ghats reached the Arabian sea in around three or four weeks’ time. Now the water hardly takes two days due to rapid urbanization. “So day by day, Nature is losing her capacity to preserve water, which makes man-made preservation of water all the more mandatory,” he stresses.

He also adds that mono-culture i.e. cultivation of a single crop in a given area, rubber cultivation, urbanization etc also adversely affects the water resources in the state.

2016 recorded high temperatures right from the beginning of 2016, which could further rise before the year is over.

State Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and Congress MLA VS Sivakumar urged the LDF government in the Assembly to seek Central aid to tackle the drought in Kerala.

On 13 October, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had convened a high-level meeting for the same, and it is hoped that the state government is likely to prepare a plan to take on the looming drought.

 

 

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