The disaster of December downpour

Sep 26, 2022

While we are fighting to avert natural disasters that would eradicate every living being from the face of the earth, we are struggling miserably with the weather deviation. Unprecedented and unseasonal rains continue to wash away our homes and livelihoods. 

December is India’s peak winter month. The weather has been stable for thousands of years. Two months before the winter sets in, the south-western monsoon rains depart. The autumn through September and October gradually opens the gate for westerly winds. Then a pleasant winter!

The short winter through December and January is said to be the most pleasant time throughout western India, where the weather has always been predictably moderate. The climate calendar always maintains doubtless punctuality. This time nature has infringed the order of weather.

The first day of December recorded an unprecedented second-highest rainfall in 24-hours. The non-stop rain came as a harsh warning. Many states reported the highest ever rainfalls with 169% excess this year. We could not notice what was written on the wall. A nightmare of unimaginable proportion! We have to carry an umbrella with us – like the unavoidable mobile phone. An optimist may call it an aberration. But it is something more than an anomaly.

The southwestern monsoon touches the coast of Kerala on the 1st of June every year. A week or fortnight later, it touches the coastal region of Maharashtra. This pattern has changed. Monsoon is either extending its stay or revisiting monthly. The seasonal and unseasonal rains flood every town in India, including the hills of Himachal and Thirupathi. Landslides have become ordinary events. The massive deviation in the pattern of weather conditions and our shoddy way of treating the vast terrains and limited plains make us increasingly susceptible to many disasters. What we have seen hitherto may be a mere warning of the ensuing onslaught.

The crops are perishing. Farmers have lost hopes. Almost every season in recent years has sent red signals to farming activities. But who bothers all these?

While we believe we are good in disaster management, the farming resources worth crores of rupees continue to deplete. The vast paddy fields sport the face of a ghost. Farmers have lost energy even to weep. The State authority still could not estimate the value of farming losses as the downpour continued its blitz. The heavily debt-ridden Kerala has already suffered proportionately higher losses in the aftermath of global climate change.

A recent study of a Swiss reinsurer estimated 18 per cent shrinkage in GDP of 48 countries which constitute 90 per cent of the global economy. It would be the consequence of global warming that leads to a rise in temperature by three degree-centigrade over the next 30 years.

The future may be worse. Rain may not be the sole damaging factor. America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated the ozone hole to reach 24.8 million square kilometres, almost the size of North America. Both the institutions predicted its persistence until early December. The damage in the ozone layer increases ultraviolet radiation on earth. It may lead to many diseases like eye cataracts, skin cancer and many genetic and immune system disorders as well. But we seem to be least bothered about any disaster.

The unseasonal rains have washed away all food and cash crops of the two seasons of the year. We can imagine that one day all the trees and plants remain fruitless. Climate change may hinder the supply of vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs and marine foods. Can we imagine the enormity of such damages, which are looming large on the head? That may lead to an inexplicable disaster. Human beings and animals would die of food shortage.

The superrich people, who constitute one per cent of the population, may survive a little longer. Our scientists and technology experts may discover technologies to prevent natural calamities. That too may be for the privileged class. But their wealth and privilege cannot support them when the poor around them die of food and crop loss. Even with enough food for them, they cannot survive when the poor people who play an important role in their life die for any reason.

Recently a report said Elon Musk’s company developed a technology to prevent the globe from a meteorite, the debris from the atmosphere that may fall on earth. The technology will divert the way of a meteorite or dispose of it without letting it fall on the earth. It was the meteorite that crushed the dinosaurs. But other disasters could be more lethal than the possibility of a meteorite strike. Our scientists’ massive efforts to lock them into a remotely-probable disaster overlook all other disasters already lashing the planet.

Let us not forget, the reason for the extinction of dinosaurs was no intervention of the then dominating living beings but natural. On the other hand, the current disaster that human beings face is a consequence of the misuse of nature by human beings themselves. We have disallowed all other living beings from our region using every possible method. Billions of species, most of them not hostile to humans, have disappeared in the onslaught of human domination. I don’t know whether Musk is planning to avenge the other species that vanished by human interference. IF he does so, he will be the first person to do something meaningful to save the earth!  Now we are making nature’s wrath kill the impoverished and underprivileged classes while neglecting the fact that everything and everyone can only coexist.

Rains do not discriminate; plants and trees do not do it; other animals maintain no prejudice. However, the self-centred works for overwhelming comforts and intellectual superiority of human beings draw in an all-pervading disaster. We must see the exceptional December rain with due caution. A disaster could be a “great leveller’ of the emperor and beggar as well as rich and poor.