Spurred by heavy rain, flooding across India and Bangladesh has killed over 100 people this month, affecting millions and leaving entire communities homeless.
Flooding, which began in early June, continued Tuesday, sweeping away villages, destroying bridges and electric lines and leaving many without food, water or shelter.
A mother brings her children to safety in floodwater caused by heavy rainfall.
Monsoon rains caused widespread flooding in northeastern Bangladesh and India, stranding nearly 6 million people and killing at least 41 people.#flood #flood2022 #Bangladesh #rain #video #floodvideo pic.twitter.com/qFb00MWe3r
— zakir hossain chowdhury (@auni_auniket) June 20, 2022
As flood-related events continue to wreak havoc, the two countries have called for military action for rescue and relief work as thousands of people wade through water with their belongings.
According to Reuters, a total of nine million people across the two countries has been stranded in low-lying areas by the flooding.
Yet this isn’t anything new for the people of South Asia who have faced pressing monsoon seasons before — but it is the start of a domino effect of destructive events caused by temperature changes driven by human activity.
Early monsoon season causes flooding
In a typical year, the monsoon season begins in June — yet global rising temperatures have led to abnormal weather changes causing heavy rain to begin pouring across northeastern India and Bangladesh in March already.
Climate change has also led to heavy rain falling in shorter and condensed periods of time rather than throughout the season, with the flooding commencing in April as a result.
Data from the Indian Meteorological Department shows just how dramatically weather patterns have changed this year. In the first three weeks of June, the state of Assam received 109% more rain than average and the neighboring state of Meghalaya saw roughly three times its average amount of precipitation.
On Sunday alone, the Meghalaya state received more than 970 millimeters (38 inches) of rain.
According to CNN, between 1961 and 2010 the average precipitation for the duration of the monsoon season (June to September) was 863.6 millimeters (34 inches) — rainfall in Meghalaya Sunday eclipsing that in just one day.
The town of Mawsynram also recorded record precipitation rates of 1,016 millimeters (40 inches) in just 24 hours — the previous high set in 1996.
Flooding leaves thousands homeless and hundreds dead
As early as June 9, 25 people had died in the state of Meghalaya, with 11 still missing and 25 injured due to heavy rain which offset flooding across India and Bangladesh.
Since June 14, in the state of Assam, at least 48 people have died as a result of the flooding, which had by then affected 5.5 million people total in the Assam state.
In Bangladesh, the death toll on Tuesday alone ranged from 12 to 32 persons and UNICEF reported that four million people in Bangladesh as of now have been affected by the flooding in the northeastern region.
Alongside flooding, the heavy rain spurred flood-related events in Bangladesh such as electrocutions and landslides, which killed 22 more people.
In Sylhet, the northeastern region in Bangladesh, the flooding is “the worst in 122 years,” according to Atiqul Haque, Director General of Bangladesh’s Department of Disaster Management.
Schools throughout India and Bangladesh have been closed and health facilities are being overwhelmed with the injured and distressed. Without food and water, people are left homeless, depending on relief camps and safety efforts.
Relief efforts are underway, but not fast enough
In the last week, the two countries have dispatched military efforts for rescue and relief efforts, setting up shelters and relief camps for the displaced throughout the affected regions.
The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army reported they have evacuated thousands of people from the roofs of their homes with inflatable boats in the past few days. As authorities rescue people from their homes, soldiers are providing drinking water and food to those that have been left without them.
According to Reuters, government authorities are attempting to deliver 1,720 tonnes of rice and 58,000 packets of dry food to flood communities alongside water purification tablets and medicines as the water is now considered unsafe to drink after flood waters contaminated the local water supply.
After visiting relief camps Tuesday, Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted that the government would also launch a portal where affected people can register their livestock and other damages caused by the floodwaters. Sarma mentioned a flood package would be announced shortly as well.
Our Govt will soon launch a portal for the affected people to register their livestock loss & other damages caused by floodwaters.
A flood relief package too will be announced shortly.
Cabinet colleague Shri @jayanta_malla accompanied me during my visit.
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 21, 2022
Yet, despite the current flood relief efforts, some are saying these efforts weren’t underway as fast as they should have been, pointing to the fact that they were dispatched only after homes were underwater.
Experts are claiming that if governments want to prevent high death tolls from disastrous flooding, long-term action plans are needed to develop better forecasting mechanisms, build embankments and inform people well in advance.
Massive flooding in Assam is yet again a stark reminder of the impact of #climatechange even as the heatwave in northern India is coming to an end.
It is time for a comprehensive national strategy on creating climate resilient infrastructure with participation at the state level. pic.twitter.com/G54D6LXtVt
— Sameer Guduru (@sameerguduru) June 21, 2022
This is particularly important now that Bangladesh’s Flood Forecast and Warning Center is warning of high waters for the next five days in the Brahmaputra River — a river which runs through India into northern Bangladesh.
The flooding comes just as the Bonn Climate Conference ended last week in disagreements over loss and damage compensation, which, had it been agreed upon, would have resulted in poor countries most affected by climate change receiving compensation from rich countries due to their disproportionate role in accelerating climate change as a result of significantly higher historical emissions.
When it comes to natural disasters, climate change appears to be a deadly, unstoppable force. But despite its seemingly inevitable consequences, various steps by both poor and rich can still be taken to address the problem of our changing climate. Failure to do so, as the latest IPCC report showed, can only result in more frequent and intense heat waves, floods and loss of human life.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Indian Army supervises residents as they stand on the remains of a flood destroyed road alongside the River Alaknanda in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand in 2013. Source: AFP PHOTO / INDIAN ARMY, Flickr.