Drought to deluge: The growing threat of climate change

Rain Floods Drought Weather Climate Change
The southwest monsoon which was unevenly distributed throughout the country, wreaked havoc in many states, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Assam and West Bengal. Illustration - Prathap Ravishankar

Life came to a standstill for Prabhukumar Bhat, a shopkeeper in Tora village of Karnataka's Kodagu district, on August 9. Just a day earlier, he had sent his wife, two daughters, aged 10 and 15 years, as well as his mother, to a farmhouse 3 km away in the foothills. He wanted to save his family members from the flood-like situation at Tora as a nearby stream was rising steadily.

But soon, Bhat started cursing himself for his decision. For, a 40-foot tall mound had turned into a river of boulders, mud and water, and uprooted trees and washed away whatever came in its way. Bhat lost all four family members in the devastating landslide caused by torrential rains in Karnataka in the first week of August.

Kodagu witnessed floods last year too. And a severe drought followed that. Yet again, it faced floods this year. Between August 6 and 12, Virajpet taluk from where Bhat hails, received 917 mm rainfall as against a normal of 109 mm, almost 9 times higher than the average. It was a similar situation in many villages in Kodagu district, which as a whole received rainfall seven times higher than the average.

In contrast, the district witnessed one of the worst droughts in years. The south-west monsoon was deficit by 50% this season till July 15. While farmers and coffee plantation workers were worried, the rains in the last week of July came as a respite. While the drought in summer affected crops such as coffee, tea, rubber, cardamom and pepper, excessive rainfall further increased the burden of farmers.

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