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A necessary brake: On altered weather patterns and infrastructure development

  • Published
    17th Aug, 2023


Haphazard development is increasing the impact of weather events.

El Nino being Ineffective

  • Less rainfall: Being an El Niño year, the expectation was that north India would see a sparse monsoon.
  • Despite seen patched rains: However, the pendulum has swung the other way. July saw record rainfall in many parts of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand and the rare sight of the Yamuna nearly spilling into the Red Fort in Delhi.
  • Leading to floods: The worst, however, was yet to come as the week saw multiple floods in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand that have claimed at least 60 lives recently. A series of landslides has crumbled buildings and blocked highways.

Western Disturbances (WD) and monsoon

  • Erratic Western Disturbance: There were too few of them in December and January and their absence was cause for the hottest February recorded in India in at least a century.
  • Compensating Monsoon: However, the WD appear to be overcompensating for their absence, with several of them incident over north India in the last two months — a time when they normally should not be around.
  • Reasons: The wired WD is in part due to a warming Arctic that causes the polar jet stream, which carries moisture, to deviate from its regular path and bring the disturbances to north India during the monsoon.

The Infrastructure Effect on Weather Systems

  • Consequences of construction: As recent fears of land subsidence in Joshimath, Uttarakhand demonstrated, ill-thought construction.
  • The ongoing Char Dham road building project: It has led to large-scale altering of the mountains with significant chunks carved away, rendering them vulnerable to upheaval.
  • Way forward: It is time that more serious thought is given to the nature of infrastructure development and, if need be, restrictions imposed in the larger interest of minimising hazards and maintaining stability.
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