MAHARASHTRA HAS recorded a seven-fold increase in drought events and a six-fold increase in the frequency of extreme flood events in the last 50 years (1970-2019), according to a study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a Delhi-based think tank. The think tank released its report on Thursday, stating that since 2000, there were 102 drought events in the state with 79 alone in the last decade.
The report also found that more than 75 per cent districts in the country are hotspots of extreme climate events. With an unusual spike in extreme events since 2005, these districts are bearing the effects of changing microclimate with loss of property, livelihood and lives. While India witnessed 250 extreme climate events (drought, floods, cyclones and compounding events such as floods and cyclones) between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 extreme weather events after 2005.
The research group has sourced information available from globally validated datasheets from other sources like India Meteorological Department, World Meteorological Organization, and Press Information Bureau.
While there were 19 extreme flood events in the state, ie, over 204.5 mm rain in 24 hours, in the decade 2009-2019. In the decade 2000-2009, there were only nine extreme flood events. More than 10.23 million people in the state are exposed to extreme flood events on a year-on-year basis, stated the report. Main hotspots include districts of Mumbai, Thane and Ratnagiri. Mumbai alone has witnessed a three-fold increase in the frequency of extreme flood events in the last 50 years.
An interesting trend highlighted by the report is swapping of the nature of extreme events in some districts. The report found that traditionally drought-prone districts like Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Pune, and Sangli have shown a shift towards extreme flood events and storm surges in the last decade.
In the last decade alone, districts of Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Solapur and Satara also witnessed increased frequency of storm surges, often intensifying into a cyclone. “Unplanned city growth has resulted in encroachment of our natural ecosystems. The rise in development triggered the urban heat island effect followed by incessant rainfall during monsoon. Unplanned development led to an increasing frequency of storm surges felt much more, especially over the last decade,” said Abinash Mohanty, author of the report and programme lead.
Some extreme events are also associated with the weakening of the monsoon. “The empirical evidence generated from our analyses coincides with the weakening of the monsoon due to rising micro-temperatures. This can further be validated by the fact that states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh saw severe water scarcity during 2015 due to record-breaking temperatures during summer and weakening monsoon,” the report states.