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Indian Monsoons: Who Is Really Drowning?

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

With the monsoon in Mumbai comes traffic jams and waterlogging.

Flooded future by Shifa Petiwala

Every June, as India welcomes the monsoon season, social media is flooded with sentiments of relief from the stifling heat. A few weeks in, the talk turns to waterlogged streets and traffic jams across cities. However, a different side of the country grapples with problems much worse.


In the past few years, the downpour has increased due to climate change - record rainfall in many parts of the country leads to major floods every year now. Higher precipitation, when combined with fast-melting glaciers, mismanaged dams, irresponsible mining projects and infrastructure-burdened floodplains causes landslides and large-scale floods.



There are obvious effects on the country’s agrarian sector, where millions of farmers depend on proper rainfall to eke out a living. Heavy rains wash away their crops, destroy their fields, and drown their financial & food security alone with it. In a single season, thousands of deaths are recorded, and millions are displaced, forced to live in government relief camps. In 2018 alone, 23 million people were affected by floods. Our monsoons have always been unpredictable, but a culmination of global warming, unplanned urban growth and environmental degradation has increased the risk to lives; and the worst hit by this are the impoverished and homeless communities.


An estimated 73 million Indians lack access to proper housing. In slums, where houses are barebone structures held together with plastic tarps, water rushes through, destroying living quarters and sweeping away meagre possessions. When the deluge starts, dwellers flee to high ground and watch as their houses fall to the downpour. When the storm clears, not only are their homes destroyed but so are their basic facilities like water and sanitation infrastructures.


The homeless, living on the streets, have no protection from the rain either. Many of these people are disabled or victims of abuse and have nowhere to go when the monsoon rolls in. Mothers fear their children will be swept away or die of starvation. They stay in wet clothes for days and go hungry. These living conditions make them even more susceptible to diseases like TB and dengue.


One day, cities like Mumbai are submerged waist-deep in water, and the next, they seem to snap back to normal – or so it seems. The homeless and impoverished communities in these cities suffer the effects of flooding for many many more days, with no respite in sight.

Moreover, studies prove that climate events like excessive rainfall lead to increased undernutrition and stunted growth in children, whose effects carry on into adulthood. Along with this, severe rainfall puts them at an increased risk of contracting diarrhoeal and other water-transmitted diseases.



To mitigate the disproportionate effects on such communities and provide basic protection, extensive homeless shelter networks must be built throughout the country. Other than this, flood zoning, planning cities with permeable surfaces, restoring wetlands and regulating development in floodplains must be taken up to reduce the effects of the monsoons on the entire country and its economy.



References

Chandrashekhar, V. (2019, September 17). As the Monsoon and Climate Shift, India Faces Worsening Floods. Yale E360.


Correspondent, H. T. (2015, June 24). Poor planning for rains cause human suffering, loss of resources. Hindustan Times.


Dimitrova, A. (2020, April 10). Monsoon weather and early childhood health in India. Https://Journals.Plos.Org/.


K, N. P. (2021, July 25). Rain, chill or heatwave, homeless poor have few places to turn to. Citizen Matters.


Thelwell, K. (2020, October 20). Homelessness During India’s Rainy Season. The Borgen Project.


Thomson Reuters Foundation. (2021, June 8). Unequal risk: How climate change hurts India’s poor most. News.Trust.Org.


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