‘J&K floods grim reminder of climate change’

Unprecedented rains, unplanned urbanisation are behind the J&K floods, the Delhi-based environment research and advocacy organisation said.

September 10, 2014 07:42 pm | Updated September 14, 2023 01:19 am IST - New Delhi

An aerial view of the buildings submerged in floodwaters in Srinagar on Wednesday. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

An aerial view of the buildings submerged in floodwaters in Srinagar on Wednesday. Photo: Nissar Ahmad

The worst floods in Jammu and Kashmir in the past 60 years and the subsequent devastation are due to a combination of unprecedented and intense rain, mismanagement, unplanned urbanisation and a lack of preparedness, Sunita Narain, director-general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said on Wednesday.

A CSE analysis showed the floods were a manifestation of an extreme weather event linked to climate change. Ms. Narain said the changing rainfall pattern in India was part of extreme events which followed a trend. She called for a national action plan to forecast floods.

In an analysis of extreme events in India from 2005 to 2013, Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director-general, said the four events he studied — from the Mumbai floods in 2005 to the recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir — were either attributed to interaction between western disturbances and the monsoon system, excessive rain or freak unusual events; there was no mention of climate change.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests had expressed no opinion on the frequency of these extreme events, and there was complete silence on their link to climate change, Mr. Bhushan pointed out.

Extreme events In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fourth assessment report, said extreme rainfall events were set to increase over the Indian subcontinent. In its fifth assessment report, the IPCC said the intensity of rainfall in India would increase. A study by B.N. Goswami of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in 2006 had predicted changes in rainfall across India and especially over the Himalayan range, which would have a high impact in the region, apart from the west coast and central India.

The study of data between 1950 and 2000 showed that the incidence of heavy and very heavy rainfall (more than 100 mm and 150 mm/ a day) had increased and moderate rainfall decreased.

Jammu and Kashmir does not have a flood forecasting system, not even a separate disaster management plan, said Ms Narain. In 2004, a remote sensing data-based study of Jammu and Kashmir had shown that 55 per cent of wetlands, drainage channels and water bodies had been encroached upon. Ms Narain said Jammu and Kashmir had an intricate system of water management. The lake areas had diminished, the holding capacity of many water bodies had gone down, and houses were built in places they should never have been, she pointed out.

The CSE called for more research on environment, and a shift from denial to internalising climate change adaptation.

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