The monsoon rains have returned after a lull to Maharashtra and Karnataka with a vengeance. Rivers are in spate and dams are filling up fast in the western and coastal regions even as Srisailam reservoir, which is a common storage facility for the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, is close to full and about to surplus. Western Maharashtra and the Konkan area have borne the brunt of the heavy rainfall in July, said to be the most incessant in four decades. Villages have been worst hit in Raigad district where the death toll has been the highest among Maharashtra’s tally that might be closer to 200 if missing persons are not rescued quickly enough from landslides as they are thought to be in homes buried under slush and mud.
The extreme weather events in India, already witnessed in rains wreaking havoc in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, are following a pattern seen in parts of Western Europe, United States and Canada which had experienced unprecedented rain in short periods of time. Even more affluent nations have been finding it impossible to handle these challenges without considerable loss of life. While environmentalists are convinced that global warming leading to climate change is causing the havoc worldwide, India may be contributing freely to environmental degradation by indiscriminate construction in fragile coastal regions.
The precariously fragile ecosystems of the Western Ghats have also been potentially disrupted by construction activity. Torrential rainfall concentrated in micro regions — the Maharashtra hill station of Mahabaleshwar received more than 1,100 mm of rain in a 48-hour period — is part of this global pattern of weather events. Such tragedies follow a classic pattern of state response as in the announcement of compensation, which is demeaning and small compared to what the loss of a life might mean to families in rural settings. The disaster response teams and the nation’s armed forces have been toiling bravely to rescue people who are helpless in the face of fierce natural disasters. Curiously, mankind itself is feeling hapless as climate change seems to be taking its toll.