Rainfall due to the extended monsoon season reached a 25-year high, with scores of people losing their lives. At the time of writing, heavy rains have killed 148 people nationwide according to MoneyControl, including 111 deaths in Uttar Pradesh alone. Bihar has reported 28 deaths, with experts there warning of the potential for infectious disease outbreaks due to the rains.
Widespread disruption has been witnessed in affected areas, forcing school closures and flooding hospitals, homes, prisons, and roads. In one example, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi left his home with assistance from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) due to flooding.“More than 200 personnel are involved in rescuing people from marooned localities and distribution of relief material to those stranded in inaccessible areas with the help of 36 boats which are plying through Patna,” said Vijay Sinha, a Commandant in the 9th Battalion of the NDRF in Bihar on Monday. “Across the state, 18 of our teams are working round the clock and have so far rescued more than 3,000 people.”
India has witnessed ten percent excess rainfall in comparison to the expected average during the prolonged season, with figures varying between states. The country’s excess rainfall represents its highest figure since 1994 according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). The withdrawal of the monsoon is expected to be delayed by a month. Relief efforts are underway in affected areas, with offers of assistance from international bodies including the United Nations.
“Experts blame a lack of urban planning and poor drainage systems, which have been unable to cope with sudden and incessant rains over recent days,” reported The Guardian. IMD official Anand Sharma told The Guardian that “natural drainage has been destroyed, natural ponds have been destroyed, people have built their houses on the flood plains. These are the problems because once you destroy the natural drainage, water doesn’t find a place to go out. It leads to flooding.”
Rains in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are expected to begin to subside this week. What the flooding shows is the need for more robust disaster preparedness, especially given the likelihood of increasingly inclement weather events in the coming years owing to changing climates.
“It has been observed that the instances of delayed monsoon withdrawal is on the rise since 2010,” said former IMD Director-General K. J. Ramesh. This trend has provoked anticipations that elongated monsoon seasons will become the new normal – making it incumbent upon authorities and agencies to adapt accordingly to minimise loss of life and risk to health.