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Untimely Heavy rainfall: Causes & preparedness | The Hindu Editorial | 19th October 2021

G.S III – Disaster Management


  • This year, the arrival of the monsoon marked by extreme and untimely rainfall in June had flooded major rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna as well as their tributaries. And now the retreating south-west monsoon also leaving a trail of destruction in various states.
  • The Indian monsoon is an invaluable resource that sustains hundreds of millions of people, but variations in its patterns and intensity pose a rising challenge.
  • Untimely and heavy rainfall leads to devastating flash floods.
  • The reason for the rise of many diseases is also related to excessive amount of rainfall in India. For example, the epidemic – dengue – which has come with a reckoning for states beset by abnormal amounts of rainfall this year.


  • Extreme climate events have increased significantly across India since the turn of the millennium.
  • Floods, droughts, and cyclones have become increasingly common in many regions across India’s diverse climatic zones.
  • In the last few days itself, the Himalayan rivers of Uttarakhand reached near the danger mark & states such as Himachal, Uttarakhand & MP are already experiencing floods. Several villages situated on the banks of the gushing rivers have experienced the loss of life and property.
  • Worryingly, some flood-prone districts are becoming drought-prone or vice-versa in a short period.

The chart shows the number of floods (left axis) and the number of districts affected by floods (right axis). 


Causes of Frequent Floods in India:

  • Global warming, urbanisation and loss of traditional flood control reservoirs may be among the reasons behind the anomaly, according to experts and researchers.
  • In a paper published in Earth System Journal (April 14, 2021) a study found that how with just a one-degree Celsius rise in global warming monsoon rainfall can increase five per cent.
  • Another research in Nature said the average rainfall is decreasing with the weakening of the monsoon cycle in central India. But extreme or excessive rainfall is rising. The reasons behind both of them could be similar.
  • Uttarakhand experienced cloudbursts and floods in 2013. This is the first time since then that north India is seeing heavy rainfall in June. The rains have led to severe flood-like conditions in the region.
  • Nowadays, the threat from extreme weather, breaking glaciers and cloudbursts in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh is very common.
  • The rise in the magnitude and intensity of the El-Nino effect, changes in land use and air pollution could be the reason behind extreme rainfall.

What steps should be taken to minimize the loss?

  • Nurturing the health of rivers.
  • keeping them free of encroachments.
  • protecting the integrity of mountain slopes by ending mining & deforestation.
  • Avoiding incompatible construction.
  • Implementing Madhav Gadgil Committee’s Recommendations.

Note: Although, the Madhav Gadgil Committee’s recommendations were specifically made for the western ghat region yet many of those recommendations would also be technically applicable to the northern and north-eastern hill states of India.

Madhav Gadgil Committee:

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel was constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) comprising of 14 members and chaired by Prof. Madhav Gadgil. The panel studied the ecological status of the Western Ghats – Based on its research, the panel designated the entire region as an ‘Ecologically Sensitive Area’ and divided the ghats into three zones: Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (very high sensitivity), Ecologically Sensitive Zone 2 (high sensitivity) and Ecologically Sensitive Zone 3 (moderate sensitivity).

Key findings:

  • The growth of commercial agriculture in the Western Ghats has led to the fragmentation of forests, soil erosion and the degradation of river ecosystems.
  • Mining for mineral ores affects water availability and recharge (the percolation of water from the surface to the groundwater table).
  • The panel proposed that no new dams with large-scale storage be permitted in the Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 (ESZ 1) or regions with very high ecological sensitivity.
  • The panel urged the Ministry of Environment and Forests to involve citizens in environmental governance. This would include the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (especially the provisions related to community forest resources.



As several states face climate change impacts and extreme weather, so the response must be to strengthen natural defences. Also, a more benign development policy should treat nature as an asset, and not an impediment.

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