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Kashmir floods have strong links with climate change

 

Flood in Jammy and Kashmir

Flood caused by heavy rain in Jammu and Kashmir

Picture source: newshence.com

Bhubaneswar,

Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  India, Flood, Jammu and Kashmir, Climate Change
As Jammu and Kashmir continues to reel under its worst floods in 60 years, which have stranded over 6 lakh people and killed about 200, this could very well be another manifestation of an extreme weather event – induced by a changing climate.
 

Floods to the scale of a “national level disaster” caused by torrential rains in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in India and Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab in Pakistan during the last stage of monsoon, early September this year, are now claimed to have strong links with rapidly changing climate in the Himalayan regions.

As Jammu and Kashmir continues to reel under its worst floods in 60 years, which have stranded over 6 lakh people and killed about 200, “this could very well be another manifestation of an extreme weather event – induced by a changing climate,” says New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

“The Kashmir floods are a grim reminder that climate change is now hitting India harder. In the last 10 years, several extreme rainfall events have rocked the country, and this is the latest calamity in that series,” says Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general and the head of its climate change team.

The state received massive 250 mm of rainfall in three days from September 3, 2014, out of its total seasonal monsoon rainfall of 568 mm till September 6. Rainfall on September 6 was 106 mm, “which is unbelievable 3116% of the normal rainfall for that date for J&K,” points Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).

 

Quotation starts

Rising temperatures have not only resulted in greater glacial melt, but are also weakening monsoon circulation, resulting in greater precipitation.

Quotation ends

“Most climate models also predict that India will be hit more and more by extreme rainfall events as the world continues to warm in the coming decades,” says CSE while referring to a study done by B. N. Goswami of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, which shows that between 1950 and 2000, the incidence of heavy rainfall events (> 100 mm/day) and very heavy events (>150 mm/day) have increased and moderate events (5-100 mm/day) have decreased.

Analysis by the Working Group II of the IPCC Assessment Report (AR5) suggests that floods and droughts are likely to increase in India, which would possibly get more rainfall but in lesser number of rainy days.

“September is the driest month for the whole state, therefore it’s pretty unusual for the worst flood in decades to be occurring now,” says Marianna Musset of tck tck tck, a website from the Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA), adding, “Flash flooding events whilst not uncommon are becoming more extreme and more frequent due to climate change.”

Taking lead from IPCC reports, Marianna observes, “Rising temperatures have not only resulted in greater glacial melt, but are also weakening monsoon circulation, resulting in greater precipitation.”

“Projections in the region indicate a rise of minimum temperatures in the Himalayan region of 1°C to 4.5°C. Maximum temperatures may rise by 0.5°C to 2.5°C, while precipitation is expected to increase by 1-2mm/day,” Marianna further says while alerting that the “Kashmir Valley is extremely vulnerable to climate change and particularly vulnerable to increased flooding.”

Compiling a list of such extreme events occurred in the past years in different parts of the country, CSE researchers say, “As was the case with some of the previous extreme rainfall events, the scale of disaster in J&K has been exacerbated by unplanned development – especially on the riverbanks. In the last 100 years, more than 50 per cent of the lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum River have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the River’s drainage capacity. Naturally, these areas have suffered the most.”

Apart from urbanisation, as experts believe, river channelisation and large-scale construction activities on the floodplains of the state have resulted in the loss of much of the region’s natural flood defences, leaving the region unable to cope with such unexpected rise in water levels.

“While it is not possible to avoid disasters, governments could minimise the effects by taking into account the interventions we do in nature and also know the full risks of what we do. We need to assess the disaster potential of the area and understand how the interventions are going to change it,” says KumKum Dasgupta of the Hindustan Times, New Delhi’s leading newspaper.

“The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests have been clearing hydropower projects in the Chenab basin even without proper social and environment impact assessment as was evident in case of Sach Khas project most recently,” points Himanshu Thakkar adding, “Such decisions by the EAC and MoEF are likely to add to the disaster potential in Chenab and other river basins in J&K.”

To deal with such extreme climate events, “the Indian government must discard its ostrich-like policy and get out of its denial mode. We will have to see the linkages between climate change and the events such as those unfolding in J&K. We will have to accept that climate change is going to affect us more and more in the future. We will, therefore, have to start preparing to adapt to the changing climate,” says Sunita Narain, director general of CSE.

“India should start internalising climate change adaptation in all developmental policies and programmes. From building of cities infrastructure to agriculture and from water supply to energy infrastructure, we will have make changes to incorporate climate change impacts,” Narain adds.

“Kashmir can’t afford to not adapt to climate change induced flooding risks,” says Marianna Musset suggesting that “The UNFCCC Adaptation Fund & Green Climate Fund must provide crucial mechanisms in a world where climate change impacts are a reality and no longer a future threat.”

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