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Himachal Pradesh prepares for 2024 monsoon after years of deadly rains

Himachal Pradesh braces for monsoon rains predicted to arrive by June 27-28. With a history of severe floods, the state enhances disaster response, relocates vulnerable populations, and coordinates with agencies to mitigate risks

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Himachal Pradesh prepares for 2024 monsoon after years of deadly rains

Photo credit: WF Sihardian/NurPhoto

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The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts the monsoon will arrive in Himachal Pradesh this week. The state government is preparing for potential adversities, considering last year's floods caused by monsoon rains. The IMD has forecasted normal rainfall for Himachal Pradesh in 2024, aligning with northwest India's monsoon season from June to September, with an 84% chance of normal to above-normal rainfall.

Surender Paul, head of Himachal Meteorological Department, told Ground Report,

"Rainfall is expected to increase in the coming days. Pre-monsoon showers have started in many places and monsoon is expected in Himachal around June 27th and 28th…There will be increased rainfall in the state from June 27th for the next three to four days, with some districts experiencing heavy rainfall."

IIT-Mandi associate professor Dericks P Shukla explained Himachal Pradesh's geological vulnerabilities. "This bowl-like geological set-re-laden monsoon clouds, causing cloud bursts when they hit the steep Himalayan slopes. We've seen this in Prashar Valle”, he said

Shukla explained the impact of global warming,

"It makes the monsoon winds carry more moisture, dust, and pollution from the plains. Himachal's topography captures the clouds, resulting in excess rainfall and flooding."

Monsoon devastation in Himachal: A six-year analysis

The monsoons devastated Himachal Pradesh. Ground Report analyzed data from 2018-2023 and found 2,064 deaths. The data showed an average of 344 per monsoon season, highlighting the escalating threat from extreme weather. The highest fatalities were in 2023 (509 deaths), followed by 2021 (476 deaths). In 2022, there were 278 deaths, while in 2020 there were 240 deaths. In 2019, there were 219 deaths and in 2018, there were 343.

  • 2018: 343 deaths

  • 2019: 218 deaths

  • 2020: 240 deaths

  • 2021: 476 deaths

  • 2022: 278 deaths

  • 2023: 509 deaths

In 2023, the state experienced record-breaking rainfall, reaching levels not seen in a quarter-century. With an average annual precipitation of 1,334.9 mm, the highest since 1998, several weather stations reported unprecedented daily rainfall totals. Kangra, Manali, Rohru, Ghamroor, Nadaun, Pachhad, and Pandoh all surpassed their previous single-day rainfall records, some of which had stood for over 50 years. Notably, Pachhad in Sirmaur district recorded 220.3 mm of rain on July 10, eclipsing its 1973 record.

Between 2017 and 2023, Himachal Pradesh suffered a total loss of Rs. 180.13 billion (Rs. 18013 crore) during monsoon seasons, averaging Rs. 10 billion per season.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) VI report states that the Himalayas in India will be hit hardest by climate change, with increased precipitation in shorter periods. Surender Paul highlighted the impact of recent extreme weather events by saying, “We witnessed three spells of heavy to extremely heavy rainfall in July and August 2023, causing maximum damage.”

Paul cited record-breaking rainfall, like the state getting 224.1 mm from July 8 to July 12, compared to its normal 42.2 mm, a 431% deviation from average, the highest since 1980."

The increasing landslides are concerning. Himachal Pradesh recorded 5,480 landslides in the 2023 Situation Assessment Report.

Preparing for the Monsoon

During a monsoon preparedness meeting, Chief Secretary Prabodh Saxena said, "We directed the DCs to find a suitable place for NDRF units, and relocate migrant labourers along river banks to prevent mishaps during difficult times."

Preparedness measures involve deploying National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) units, relocating vulnerable populations, improving water level monitoring systems, and enhancing inter-agency coordination. Saxena emphasised the importance of coordinating with dam authorities. "They must test-check their machinery and be prepared to mitigate any flood situation," he said.

The Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Vikramaditya Singh assured of readiness to handle monsoon emergencies. Singh stated, "We've positioned 206 JCBs, 110 bulldozers, and 28 robot machines, along with 17 Bailey bridges, and 13,000 workers," aiming to ensure swift rescue and relief operations.

At the district level, administrations are preparing for the monsoon. Kangra Deputy Commissioner Hemraj Bairwa has emphasized the importance of preventive measures. "Cleaning wells and drains should be done before the monsoon in Kangra district. Development block officers are instructed to take effective steps for water drainage in all panchayats."

Bairwa emphasized the need for special attention to ongoing infrastructure projects, saying, "We asked the company and NH authority to prioritize human safety before the monsoon due to construction work on two four-lane projects in the district." He added, “Disaster management centres will be open 24/7 at the district and subdivisional headquarters. In case of emergency, call 1077”.

The state government's proactive measures, like enhanced disaster response, improved early warning systems, and inter-agency coordination, are positive. Long-term strategies addressing climate change adaptation, sustainable infrastructure development, and ecosystem preservation are crucial for building resilience against future monsoon-related disasters.

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