Archives  >  2019  >  August  >  19th

Indian Rain

1. What’s the story?

Just last month, the subcontinent was reeling under a severe drought-like situation. In just two weeks, the situation has changed drastically. More than 150 people have died in the past few days due to heavy monsoon rains. Reservoirs are overflowing, cities are waterlogged, and landslides and floods abound.  
 
Tell me more.
Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and Jammu & Kashmir are some of the worst monsoon-hit states. Over 12 lakh people have been affected across the nation, and thousands have been shifted to temporary relief camps.

“Over 120 people were airlifted from an inundated road in Kutch as rescue operations were stepped up last Monday in flood-hit Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, the four states where nearly 200 people have perished so far, while nine people were killed in landslides in Uttarakhand and Jammu following heavy rains.”

Heavy rains continued to lash Northern states on Sunday, with 25 dead in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

“At least 22 people were killed and nine others injured as heavy rains lashed parts of Himachal Pradesh Sunday, PTI reported, prompting the district administration to announce that all educational institutions in Shimla and Kullu districts would remain closed on Monday.”

India’s reservoirs have gone from dry to overflowing in just two weeks.

“The Central Water Commission, a technical organisation under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, releases a bulletin on reservoir levels every week. The bulletin issued on August 1 said the water level in reservoirs across the country was 80% of normal storage – or 20% less than usual. Two weeks later, as per the bulletin released on August 14, this had jumped to 125% of normal storage.”

The increase in rainfall is essentially a response to the increase in the average temperature due to global warming.

“Warmer air can hold more water vapour than cooler air. This means that when average temperatures are higher, there is more water vapour in the air. This extra moisture enters the cyclonic circulations, which results in heavier rainfall.”

Heavier monsoons coupled with reckless quarrying and construction in ecologically delicate areas have now led to massive floods, landslides, and life losses across the country.
 
So, what now?
The Government has set up relief camps and announced monetary compensation for disaster victims – but here are some ways you can keep yourself prepared to deal with a flood-like situation, including a ready-reckoner list of state and Army helpline numbers.

With flood waters starting to recede in some states, it is also important to know how to deal with its aftermath.

In case you’re so inclined, you can also go here to donate to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.



2. Where else should I be looking at?

Kashmir, that’s where. The valley has started its slow march back to normalcy – but there’s still a long way to go. Ease of movement was somewhat increased this weekend, though Internet services were suspended once again as a way to combat the spread of misinformation. Landline services were also resumed in parts of the state. Rural areas, however, still remain relatively cut off. The curfew began on 5th August of this year.

“J&K government spokesman Rohit Kansal said the process of easing prohibitory orders was on. “The restrictions were eased in 50 police station areas today as against 35 police station areas yesterday,” PTI quoted Kansal as saying.

“Over 190 primary schools will reopen tomorrow in Srinagar alone and after this, we look forward to other areas like taking up development-related activities,” he said.”

Ground report from certain sources, however, paint a very different picture.

“The security personnel had been whistling away anybody stepping on the street to go back inside. A couple of youngsters who were standing fifty metres ahead on the roadside, in new clothes, gestured with their hands and refused to go. The security personnel started loudly abusing them, used their catapult to sling stones at them and chased after them. The youngsters ran away and the soldiers returned to their position. We waited in the by-lanes till the commotion ended. After that we decided to not use the main road and take the narrow by-lanes instead.”



3. What more?

By all accounts, Indian businesses seem to have their backs to the wall. Increasing debt, a complicated Goods and Services Tax (GST) system, tax vigilantism, and arbitrary decisions such as demonetization have led to widespread panic in the business community, irrespective of the industry.

“For starters, the government’s shock to the system through demonetization nipped nascent growth resurgence in 2016. This was followed up with a flawed GST structure in 2017, which remains a work-in-progress even now. The numerous tax slabs under the GST have also brought significant compliance costs, especially for small and medium enterprises, further eating into their bottom lines.

“There is a genuine fear that the tax man will be at your doorstep at the slightest suspicion and subject you to untold harassment, as highlighted by Cafe Coffee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha’s death,” said the chief executive of a multinational company, requesting anonymity. There are many anecdotal stories about harassment around taxation doing the rounds; experts agree that such a situation is not healthy for business as usual.”



4. Anything else?

Surprisingly enough, India’s tiger reserves are booming. A new study has shown that for every rupee invested in a tiger reserve, the Government gets back INR 2500. This includes tangible benefits like employment opportunities and timber produce, as well as non-tangible benefits like soil conservation, environmental protection, and cultural heritage.

“India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar called tiger reserves the engines of economic growth. “Looking at the triggered effect of investment in tiger reserves leading to the creation of multiple benefits, it would not be wrong to designate these tiger reserves as the engines of economic growth,” said Javadekar …”



5. Is that all?

In another proof of human beings irreparably damaging the planet, a group of US scientists have detected the presence of plastic even in Arctic ice cores. This incident throws a harsh light on how pollution is a threat to marine life even in remote locations.

“We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean,” said Jacob Strock, a graduate student researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores.

“When we look at it up close and we see that it’s all very, very visibly contaminated when you look at it with the right tools — it felt a little bit like a punch in the gut,” Strock told Reuters by telephone.

The scientists’ dismay is reminiscent of the consternation felt by explorers who found plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth, during submarine dives earlier this year.”

In other news, Iceland’s 700-year-old Okjokull glacier was commemorated with a plaque last weekend. It had been officially declared dead in 2014 due to global warming.

“What once was glacier has been reduced to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.
..
mourners walked up the volcano northeast of the capital Reykjavik to lay a plaque which carries a letter to the future.

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as glacier,” it reads.

“In the next 200 years all our main glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done.

“Only you know if we did it.”



6. Before you leave …

Take a look at how US President Donald Trump is reportedly thinking of purchasing a “giant socialist island.”

“President Donald Trump is interested in buying Greenland, The Wall Street Journal reports. “In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland,” the paper says … the paper also reports that Trump has asked White House lawyers to investigate.

This plan faces, shall we say, an immediate logistical hurdle: Greenland is not for sale. 

And this morning, the office of Greenland’s foreign minister tweeted that the country was “open for business, not for sale.”



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