Most of Tarai is reeling under unusual mid-monsoon droughtExperts say the reactive approach of the authorities does not help in mitigating the risks of loss and damage.
On Sunday, a delegation of locals from Kalikamai Rural Municipality of Parsa district reached the district administration office and drew the attention of the officials concerned about the growing drinking water woes in their areas.
The delegation sought help from the administration office for the supply of drinking water in areas having an acute water scarcity.
“Forget about rice plantations, we are even struggling to arrange for drinking water,” Bikram Chaurasia, a local from Ward-2 of the rural municipality, told the Post over the phone from Parsa. “A lot of wells, hand pumps and borewells in our areas have dried up, as have the rice seedlings in the beds.”
Kalikamai Rural Municipality is among the dozens of local units in the Madhesh Province that have been facing an acute drinking water scarcity due to extreme drought-like conditions during the mid-monsoon season.
“My father, who is 85 years old, said that he has never seen such a drought in his lifetime,” said Chaurasia. “Paddy fields cultivated by using water from borewells have developed cracks and the crops are drying up. Due to a lack of rainfall for a long time and scorching heat, life has become too difficult in our area.”
According to the rainfall data of the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, most districts in the Tarai, except the districts of Koshi Province, have been witnessing severe to extreme droughts. Since the onset of the monsoon on June 14 this year, the weather station in Janakpur has recorded 182.4 millimetres of rainfall. It is less than 20 percent of two months’ (June-July) average of 697 mm for Janakpur.
Nepalgunj has witnessed below 30 percent rainfall as of Monday, since the onset of the monsoon.
“Below 20 percent rainfall during mid-monsoon is an extreme drought condition and below 30 percent rainfall is a severe drought condition,” said Dr Indira Kandel, a senior divisional meteorologist at the Climate Analysis Section under the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.
On average, Nepal sees about 1,472mm of rainfall during the monsoon season which lasts for four months from June to September.
So far, 555.5 mm of rainfall has been recorded across the country since the start of the monsoon. The rainfall data of the last 30 years (from 1991 to 2020) shows that 768.7 mm of rain would fall, on average, in June and July. The department had predicted below-average rainfall this year.
“Even if there is not much of a gap in the national average, there are drought-like conditions in districts of the Tarai,” said Kandel. “We have also been preparing to issue a special bulletin on the extreme drought conditions in the Tarai region.”
Nepal is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the climate crisis and has witnessed multiple extreme weather events over the past decade and a half.
Evidence suggests that the maximum temperature in Nepal is rising faster, at 0.056 degrees Celsius a year, compared to the global average of a rise of 0.03 degrees Celsius a year.
Experts say extreme weather events—excessive rainfall in a short time, continuous rain for several days post-monsoon, dry spells and droughts, below-average precipitation and above-normal temperature in winter—have become more frequent in Nepal in recent years.
Last year too, districts of western Tarai, including Banke witnessed drought during the entire monsoon season and freak rains post-monsoon inundated farmlands.
“Slow onset of extreme weather events have been more frequent in our country,” said Manjeet Dhakal, a climate change expert. ‘But we have not changed our approach to address the problems. Only reactive approaches (reaction after the disaster) do not help us in mitigating loss and damage.”
Thousands of people are affected and the nation incurs heavy economic losses due to extreme weather events, according to experts. They say that by upgrading meteorological stations, dissemination and exchange of the right information among the public and concerned agencies, and providing relief to affected populations are among the measures the authorities should take to lessen their impact.
“One may not take the effects of climate change and extreme weather events seriously,” said Raju Pandit Chhetri, director at Prakriti Resources Centre, a group that advocates environment-friendly policies and development practices. “But the fact is that a lot of people are getting affected every year and the economic growth of the country too has suffered.”