After two consecutive floods in 2018 and 2019, parts of Karnataka are bracing for another flood-like situation this year with the meteorological department warning of heavy rains in coastal and northern regions of the state.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued orange alert (indicating heavy to very heavy rains at isolated places) in Uttara Kannada, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts till August 7.
With heavy rains washing away roads and bridges, and damaging houses last year, people in the northern region were still coming to terms even as the flood relief failed to reach them fully. Districts like Ballari, Koppal, Kalaburgi and Bagalkote received over 60 percent excess rainfall during the southwest monsoon when compared to the normal rains.
In the southern region, Kolar, Chikkaballapur and Chitradurga received double the expected rainfall, while Bengaluru Urban and Rural received 80 per cent excess rainfall during the season so far, as per the report of Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre.
Meanwhile, amid the COVID-19 crisis, with good rainfall, the sowing activity remained unaffected. The total area sown was 47.01 lakh hectares, which is 2.02 lakh hectares more than the coverage recorded during June and July last year.
“While the lockdown initially affected our previous crop season, the agricultural activities resumed full-fledged this season. With good rains, we have sown vegetables and food crops in additional two acres of land,” said Sriram N, a farmer in the Bengaluru outskirts. Sriram cultivated tomato, ginger and beans. He lost the tomato crops cultivated in two acres of land after the lockdown impacted his marketability. He had incurred a loss of ₹2 lakh. Now, with good rainfall, he hopes to recover the losses made during the previous season.
Another farmer, Basavana Goud Harti in Gagad district of North Karnataka, said, while rains eluded them in June, the July rains were almost double than what they expected. “We had started the sowing activities a bit late. We fear that if the rains continue, it may destroy our standing crops (jowar and corn),” he said. Farmers in his village were affected due to the floods last year.
Karnataka experienced extreme weather events in the last decade. The state frequently confronted floods, hailstorms and landslides in the coastal and North Karnataka, while the southern region was fraught with drought. The state witnessed severe floods during 2005, 2009, 2018 and 2019.
Last year, the rains devastated the coffee, pepper and cardamom plantations in Kodagu district, dealing a deadly blow to the planters and spice growers in the region. The climatic changes have resulted in extreme weather conditions.
“The rainfall distribution remained skewed and the excessive rainfall has been confined to parts of north Karnataka, Malnad and coastal regions. The state which grappled with drought situation until July last year, was confronted with devastating floods in the space of just one week,” said former KSNDMC director GS Srinivasa Reddy. The situation further compounded with a record discharge of water from the dams in the upper Krishna basin of Maharashtra.
According to a study by the disaster management team, based on long-term climate data series for the last 58 years (1960 to 2017), it is observed that Karnataka witnessed a considerable shift in rainfall pattern. As per the report, the amount of annual rainfall and the number of rainy days have increased in south Karnataka and Malnad region. Alongside, there is a reduction in the amount of annual rainfall and marginal increase in the number of rainy days observed in northern and coastal regions.
The rains in the Malnad region, which is crucial for the rise in water levels in the reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, eluded in the June and July. The Malnad region of Shivamogga, Hassan, Kodagu and Chikmagalur reported 40 per cent deficit rainfall this season while the rains battered the northern region.
The reservoirs in the Cauvery basin — Kabin and KRS — were full to its capacity by 80 per cent and 56 per cent as of August 1. Meanwhile, Almatti had water to the extent of 73 per cent of its full capacity and Narayanapuram dam at 90 per cent already.