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India braces for intense 2024 monsoon amid recent deadly weather trends

Ground Report analyzes monsoon-related fatalities and disasters from 2019-2023. As experts predict heavier rainfall for 2024, India faces the dual challenges of potential agricultural benefits and severe flooding risks.

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
India braces for intense 2024 monsoon amid recent deadly weather trends

A cloudburst wiped out a few houses in the village of Uttarakhand and deposited lots of debris and boulders on the bed next to the village. Photo credit: Ashish Gupta/Wikimedia Commons

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As India prepares for the annual monsoon, experts predict heavier rainfall for 2024. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts 106% normal rainfall. Senior IMD official  This news brings mixed feelings for Indian farmers. Vijay Jawandhia, a farmer from Maharashtra, shares, "It's challenging to plan our crops with unpredictable rains. More rain sounds promising, but it could flood our fields." This sentiment is widespread across rural India, where the monsoon is both a lifeline and a threat.

The South Asian monsoon season, from May to October, brings 80% of India's annual rainfall. Heavy rainfall events have intensified globally due to human activity, as per the IPCC report with further increases expected as temperature rises. This has led to the rise of monsoon-related disasters like floods, landslides, cyclones, avalanches, lightning strikes, crop damage and associated infrastructure damage across the affected regions.

Dr Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, explains, "The total monsoon rainfall hasn't significantly changed over the decades. But, there's a trend towards more intense rain bursts. These heavy rains, often caused by climate change, lead to catastrophic flooding and landslides."

monsoon and lack of planned drainage systems leads to flash floods on roads
Monsoon and lack of planned drainage systems leads to flash floods on roads in Kerala. Photo credit: Flickr/India Water Portal

Recent monsoon trends

Ground Report analyzed the highest number of monsoon-related fatalities occurring between May and October from 2019 to 2023. 

In recent years, India has seen intensified and erratic monsoons, less reliable over time.  Recent data shows the persistent danger of India's monsoons. In 2023, official records reveal 2,038 fatalities, 1,584 injuries, and 101 missing due to flooding between April 1st and August 17th. The state-wise breakdown of casualties is alarming: 518 deaths in Bihar, 330 in Himachal Pradesh, 165 in Gujarat, 138 in Madhya Pradesh, 107 in Karnataka and Maharashtra, 90 in Chhattisgarh, and 75 in Uttarakhand.

Year

Period

Number of Deaths

2023

April 1 to August 17

2,038

2022

June to August

2,035

2021

July to September

813

2020

July to October

959

2019

June to October

2,100+

As per Ground Report's analysis of the data, in 2022, 2,035 people died from widespread flooding across multiple states. Major incidents included severe flooding in Assam and Bihar, which submerged over 4,000 villages by late May with a death toll of 386 by June. Maharashtra had 105 deaths from June to July, and Himachal Pradesh reported 276 deaths from June to August. A June 30th landslide in Manipur killed 58 people, highlighting the range of monsoon-related disasters.

In 2021, the monsoon season brought calamities like cyclones and avalanches. Cyclone Tauktae in southern India claimed 169 lives, while Cyclone Yaas resulted in 20 fatalities. An avalanche in Uttarakhand, triggered by floods, killed 83 people and left 121 missing. Floods in Maharashtra from July to August killed 251 people, and September floods and landslides in the same state took another 180 lives. The total monsoon-related death toll for 2021 reached at least 813.

flood damaged road alongside the River Alaknanda in Chamoli district in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand
Flood damaged road alongside the River Alaknanda in Chamoli district in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Photo credit: Flick/Diariocritico de Venezuela

The 2020 monsoon season caused over 959 deaths from July to October. The season included the impact of cyclones like Cyclone Amphan, which killed at least 86 people in West Bengal. The floods caused an estimated $88.5 billion in damage in India, making them the costliest floods in modern history and the ninth costliest disaster.

The 2019 monsoon was the heaviest in 25 years, causing over 2,100 fatalities between June and October. Thirteen states were affected, with Karnataka and Maharashtra hit the hardest. In Assam, flooding impacted 32 of 33 districts, affecting 4.496 million people across 4,620 villages.

Annual floods claim 1,500 lives

The data from the International Disasters Database EM-DAT shows that over 1,500 Indians died in floods annually from 2011 to 2020. The toll of monsoon-related disasters is immense. Millions face displacement annually, impacting livelihoods, education, and mental health. In flood-prone regions like Assam, communities grapple with the annual destruction of property and infrastructure. More than 1,000 people died in the 2017 monsoon, affecting over 31 million people and damaging or destroying over 800,000 houses. 

In India, where a significant portion of the population works outdoors, lightning poses a considerable threat, particularly as rainfall intensifies. Lightning strikes have become a leading cause of deaths according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), accounting 35.8% of the 8,060 deaths recorded in 2022. Other estimates suggest lightning claims more than 2,500 live annually in India. Ground Report previously reported on the impact of lightning strikes on the marganlised communities.

Way Forward

The need for mitigation and adaptation has intensified as climate change affects monsoon patterns. The Indian government plans to revise the National Disaster Management Plan, incorporating recent lessons and climate projections. Focus areas include strengthening early warning systems, coordination, investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, and enhancing public awareness and preparedness.

As India enters the 2024 monsoon season, the nation watches with hope and apprehension. Above-normal rainfall brings promise for agriculture and water security but also concerns about flooding and landslides. The coming months will reveal the impact of recent tragedies.

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