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Monday, July 10, 2017

Rains ~ rains ! ~ and more rains in Chennai - all in an hour !!

Centuries ago, in 1876 there was a great famine.  In one way, the gamine was attributable to  intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau.  There were other reasons too ~ the export of grain by the colonial government; during the famine the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4 million hundredweight (320,000 ton) of wheat; already, the traditional agriculture had taken a hit by commodification of grain and cultivation of alternate cash crops and later cotton to the requirement of colonial bosses.

The famine occurred at a time when the colonial government was attempting to reduce expenses on welfare. Earlier, in the Bihar famine of 1873–74, severe mortality had been avoided by importing rice from Burma. However, the Government of Bengal and its Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Richard Temple, were criticized for excessive expenditure.  Bitten by experience,  in 1876, Temple, who was now Famine Commissioner for the Government of India, formulated a policy of laissez faire with respect to the trade in grain, and  also set  stricter standards of qualification for relief and on more meager relief rations.  .. .. the so called administrators’ poor handling added to the gravity of human suffering – history may not portray the tribulations of subjects arising out of wrongful acts of administrators !!

Tamil Nadu, Chennai in particular has been incurring the wrath of nature.  A decade back there was tsunami, in 2005 there were floods and in 2016, cyclone Vardah unleashed its potent force.  In 2015, Puzhal, Sholavaram, Kaliveli, Pulicat and Maduranthakam lakes around Chennai had overflowed due to unseasonal rains – Chennaites for the first time saw water flowing in full flow in Adyaru, infact overflowing the bridge at Saidapet – walk down to see where the water level and is and one would be surprised as to how it rose to such heights.  Now not even two full years later, four main reservoirs - Poondi, Red Hills, Cholavaram and Chembarambakkam have dried up already and the city is facing acute crisis of drinking water.
photo from web : source not known

Water tankers and people lining up with colourful plastic pots are seen everywhere. Metro water’s telephone lines are ringing all the time, as the parched out residents seek some support.  By some accounts, the city  requires around 830 million litres of water a day,  is not getting anything closer to that.  For sure tankers cannot meet the demand in full, at many places, people are digging deeper.  On our part, let us resolve not to waste a single drop of water; water is precious – the sad truth is all that flowed in buckets, eventually found its way to see or got lost ! – not stored !!

This summer too has been exceptionally hot and the sparse rainfall in June did little to restore the city’s depleting groundwater levels. When water levels in the four lakes fall, MetroWater usually taps into the Veeranamlake in Cuddalore district to make up for the shortfall. But this large lake has also run dry. This prompted MetroWater officials to extract water from the Wallajahlake, also in Cuddalore. But the use of these rural lakes to meet urban needs has infuriated farmers in the district, who say they are being deprived of their water resources.

~ will monsoon provide the succor !!

The southwestern summer monsoons occur from July through September. The southwest monsoon is generally expected to begin around the beginning of June and fade away by the end of September. The moisture-laden winds on reaching the southernmost point of the Indian Peninsula, due to its topography, become divided into two parts: the Arabian Sea Branch and the Bay of Bengal Branch.  This year, the Southwest Monsoon 2017 made timely onset over Kerala on May 30. Simultaneously, Monsoon has also covered parts of Northeast India.  Weather sources state that severe Cyclone Mora has played an important role in the arrival of Monsoon over Indian region.  With its onset, Kerala witnessed on and off rains.

During 2016, onset of southwest monsoon (SWM) over Kerala took place on 8th June, 7 days behind the normal schedule of 1st June and covered the entire southern peninsular India by 19th June.  Last year’s rainfall for  June-September, 2016 over the southern Indian peninsular region comprising of the five states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and two union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep was 92% of its long period average (LPA).  This year in Tamilnadu, from 1st June to 5th July 2017, the rainfall has been 52.7mm as against 54.6, which is considered as normal. 

A day or an hour almost changed all that !~  in one of the most intense spells of rainfall recorded over last 40 years, Chennai on Sunday (9th July 2017 night)  got pounded by a mini-Vardah-like storm, bringing 73 mm of rainfall in just one hour. Several parts of the city, especially low-lying areas, have reported flooding. It was by far the wettest day so far this year.

Strong thunderstorm activity over the city has triggered cloud burst. All hell broke loose about 7.30 pm, and the tempo remained till 8.30 pm. Though the Met department had forecast rainfall and thunderstorm during evening and night hours, the intensity of downpour was something that was not expected.Almost all parts of the city have received heavy rainfall. At times, the rainfall was coupled with gusty winds, rekindling memories of the storm during Cyclone Vardah. Believe it or not, Chennai has received a cumulative rainfall of 61 mm from January to July 8 this year, and it was breached in the matter of an hour. 

Indian Express Chennai edition, quoting a noted weather blogger, who has the hourly rainfall data from 1975, said Sunday’s rainfall in one hour is probably the second intense spell received by the city in the last 40 years. The all-time high was recorded in September 1996, when Chennai received 92 mm rainfall in one hour.

Rains ! ~ did that make you happy ?and more importantly, how much did it add to our water resources ?? ~ and who is to be blamed for these failure to store !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

10th July 2017.

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