State of Climate of India report by IMD should occasion interventions to make people resilient to extreme weather events.
What does the report confirm?
- Frequent extreme weather events: The report states that extreme weather events have become par for the course in the country.
- The report notes that excessive heat, cold and rainfall killed 1,562 people during the year.
- Intense dry spells, even droughts, were interspersed with floods in several parts of the country
- Above normal temperature: The mean temperature last year was 0.36 above normal.
- The excess rainfall: The country also recorded excess rainfall during both the southwest and northeast monsoons.
Long-term meteorological trends:
- The IMD report should be seen in conjunction with long-term meteorological trends.
- The warmest decade: The World Meteorological Organisation reckons that the decade starting 2011 remains on track to be the warmest on record.
- Increase in the relative humidity: At the same time, data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecast shows that the relative humidity in the mid-troposphere in the Subcontinent has increased by about 2 percent in the past four decades.
- Such warming has increased the capacity of oceans to form intense cyclonic disturbances.
Implications for disaster-preparedness:
- Cyclones: Last year, as the IMD report notes, the Indian Ocean witnessed eight cyclones.
- Cyclones don’t kill but buildings can turn hazardous during such extreme weather events.
- The vulnerability of the poor: In Odisha winds blowing at more than 140 kilometers per hour ripped off roofs and window frames in modern houses and also exposed the vulnerability of the mud and bamboo houses of the poor.
- Guidelines: The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs does have guidelines for climate-friendly construction.
- But planners in coastal cities and towns rarely pay heed to its provisions.
- Cooperation between the states: The changing dynamics of weather also demands cooperation between states that share a river basin.
- Maharashtra and Karnataka bickered over opening the gates of the Almatti dam on the Krishna.
Implications for the farmers:
- For farmers, vagaries in nature mean disruptions in the entire cropping cycle.
- This year, Kerala, southern Karnataka, and Gujarat were heavily deficient till July.
- But within a few days in the last week of July, these states recorded surplus rainfall.
- Rainwater storage and use: Increasing their resilience calls for efficient rainwater storage and use.
It’s clear that dealing with exceptional weather will require interventions at the national, state and local levels. The Statement on Climate of India 2019 drives home the urgency of such interventions.