'Unprecedented Rains, Unplanned Urbanisation Reasons Behind J&K floods'

New Delhi
'Unprecedented Rains, Unplanned Urbanisation Reasons Behind J&K floods'

Unprecedented rainfall, unplanned urbanisation and lack of preparedness are the basic reasons behind the floods which have devastated Jammu and Kashmir, a Delhi-based environment research and advocacy organisation today said.

An analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said the floods could very well be another manifestation of an extreme weather event induced by a changing climate.

"It is a combination of an intense and unprecedented rainfall event combined with mismanagement (of drainage) and unplanned urbanisation and lack of preparedness," Sunita Narain, CSE director general, told reporters.

CSE said, as was the case with some of the previous extreme rainfall events, the scale of disaster in Jammu and Kashmir has been exacerbated by unplanned development, especially on the riverbanks.

"In the last 100 years, more than 50 per cent of the lakes, ponds and wetlands of Srinagar have been encroached upon for constructing buildings and roads. The banks of the Jhelum river have been taken over in a similar manner, vastly reducing the river's drainage capacity. Naturally, these areas have suffered the most," the CSE said.

Elaborating on the unpreparedness of Jammu and Kashmir in dealing with such events, CSE officials said that Jammu and Kashmir does not have a flood forecasting system and "its disaster management system is also rudimentary."

"The Kashmir floods are a grim reminder that climate change is now hitting India harder. In the last 10 years, several extreme rainfall events have rocked the country and this is the latest calamity in that series," said Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general.

CSE said its researchers had compiled a list of such extreme events which includes Mumbai floods of 2005, Leh cloudburst of 2010 and the Uttarakhand floods of 2013.

"India should start internalising climate change adaptation in all developmental policies and programme. From building of cities infrastructure to agriculture and from water supply to energy infrastructure, we will have to make changes to incorporate climate change impacts," said Narain.

"In each of these disasters, thousands have died and the economic losses incurred have run into thousands of crores of rupees," the CSE said.

The CSE analysis about Jammu and Kashmir floods further highlighted that there has been "unseasonal and extreme rainfall" and at many places as it rained more than 200-mm in 24 hours –- 400 per cent more than the monthly average.

However, CSE said that in these cases of Leh, Mumbai, Uttarakhand and now Jammu and Kashmir, no mention of climate change was ever made by the Indian Meteorological Department and it has rejected it as the possible reason for the events.

CSE said that Ministry of Environment and Forests & Climate Change too has "no opinion" on these extreme rainfall events. The think-tank said heavy and very heavy rainfall events in India has increased over the past 50-60 years.

"A study done by B N Goswami of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology Pune shows that between 1950 and 2000, the incidence of heavy rainfall events (above 100 mm/day) and very heavy events (above 150 mm/day) have increased and moderate events (5-100 mm/day) have decreased.

"Most climate models also predict that India will be hit more and more by extreme rainfall events as the world continues to warm in the coming decades," the CSE said.

It said that according to the latest analysis by the Working Group II of the IPCC Assessment Report (AR5), floods and droughts are likely to increase in India. India will get more rainfall but in lesser number of rainy days. Increase in extreme precipitation during monsoons has also been predicted.

Similarly, IPCC's 2011 Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation presenting projections for the period 2071-2100 points to increasing incidents of more frequent and intense heavy precipitation over most regions.

Stating that "denial was hurting" more, CSE urged that its time that the country has to accept that climate change is impacting and they are likely to increase in the future.

CSE also called for improving forecasting and warning systems, build disaster management capabilities at the local and state levels, and invest in research to understand more how climate change is going to affect different areas and aspects.

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