Just as the COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference at Glasgow gets set to be held from October 31 to November 12, environmentalists have put out some alarming facts regarding the drastic change in rainfall patterns and other climate indicators in the North-Eastern part of India. And, all of it is attributed to nothing but Global Warming.
According to IMD, a 22% deficit in rainfall was encountered in Assam during this monsoon. Moreover, the rainfall deficit in the rest of the north-eastern states also ranged from 21-30%. Till August 27, 2021, several states in the North East were suffering from high deficits in rainfall. Manipur had the highest deficit, with 58 percent less rainfall than normal.
Mizoram recorded a deficit of 28 percent; Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh received 23 percent and 21 percent less rainfall than normal. Other states fared better only marginally. The trend only becomes starker when one looks at the data from the last few decades. Northeast India hosts some of the rainiest places on Earth, with rainwater being the major source of water there.
The rain and snow feed mountain springs, which feed the tributaries that join either the Brahmaputra, Barak as well as rivers in Manipur. All these together water the region.
Dependency on Rainfall
With the rapid fall in rainfall, the rest of the water systems also get disturbed. Almost 27 percent of villages in northeast India are watered directly by the springs, according to a NITI Aayog report on the inventory and revival of springs published in August 2018.
Around 70 percent of the region’s area lay in the catchment of the Brahmaputra river and its major (41) and minor (121) tributaries as well as numerous streams. This dependency on rainfall makes the region highly vulnerable to climate change.
Other sources of water, such as glaciers that feed rivers in other mountain regions of India, are not as common in the North East. Glaciers in Arunachal Pradesh cover 223 square kilometers of a total land area (83,473 square km).
The meteorologists said it would be difficult to attribute the dip in rainfall and an “extended summer” to climate change. “Data of all the meteorological centers over a substantial period need to be analyzed to conclude,” a weather specialist said.
However, according to the latest study of Delhi- based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), October has already appeared as one of the hottest months ever recorded so far in the northeast. The most commonly glacier-fed rivers have turned into rain-fed rivers and monsoon rainfall was the main source of water flow in the rivers of the northeast.
The report indicated that the rainfall patterns, especially during the monsoon, have been changing, resulting mostly in the region getting dried up. Referring to the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) data, the report stated that in 20 of the last 22 years’ monsoon, rainfall has been below normal, and more than a century-long data set showed a declining trend in many states of the northeast.
Effects on biodiversity
The researchers also observed the influence of Climate Change on biodiversity. So much so that it was discovered that mango has started growing in cold weather at Upper Siang of Arunachal Pradesh. The study found as many as 27% of villages in the northeast were watered recently by springs or natural streams but the effect on the perennial water source has impacted agriculture, horticulture, fishing, and animal rearing.
These climate changes, specifically the rainfall pattern, have a trickle-down effect on the varieties of rice cultivated in the region. The overall diversity of rice varieties has come down, new pests and in- sects were being witnessed in some places like Upper Slang in Arunachal Pradesh and Wokha in Nagaland, the study underlined.
India’s crucial role in Climate change
According to the first-ever US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the issue of climate change, India along with Pakistan are one of the 11 most vulnerable countries in regards to their ability to prepare as well as respond to the environmental and social impact of climate change. Furthermore, the report says that India and China will be some of the most crucial countries that will determine the rate at which global temperatures rise.