BY NANDKUMAR KAMAT
THE Government of Goa is not fully geared to face extreme weather phenomena. Losses of traditional storm water drainage systems and failure to provide sufficient resilience and capacitance against extreme weather phenomena have further compounded the problems in Goa.
The Fatorda one-day cricket fiasco was predictable. This is the third one-day cricket match to be abandoned in Goa–which shows the ignorance of the organisers about changing local weather conditions.
The playgrounds in Goa lack modern drainage systems and drying facilities.
Henceforth it would be possible to organise such events only between January to March. Sports organisers and event managers in India would have to factor in climate change and extreme weather conditions before any venue is selected. Now computer models help in making such decisions. Goa is likely to experience humid monsoon-like conditions from May to November every year. That leaves only five months with less probability of storms and rainfall. Although the normal date of the retreat of the South-West monsoon is September 30, local effects of global warming, climate change and El Nino have contributed to its’ unusually prolonged extension this year.
This has very serious consequences for economy and public health. Losses of traditional storm water drainage systems and failure to provide sufficient resilience and capacitance against extreme weather phenomena have further compounded the problems in Goa. The humid and overcast sky conditions during the past two weeks are similar to onset of the monsoon over Goa at the end of May. By afternoon a wall of clouds forms on the horizon and then the intense showers begin. Some areas of Goa have seen mini cloudbursts-high intensity rains resulting in instant flooding.
One such event occurred at Corlim-Old Goa area recently. It caused flooding of some houses at night. Unexpected, short intense spells of showers have also impacted Pernem, Bicholim, Ponda and Canacona talukas. Showers have flattened the entire paddy crop in Amre Khazan, Markaim. Farmers were getting ready to harvest paddy in anticipation of dry weather conditions. At Taleigao, farmers use the road to dry their paddy harvest. After two days of good sunshine they were in tears to witness the damage caused by sudden rains.
Spread of Disease
Panaji is a ticking public health time-bomb. Extended monsoon would multiply mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases. Already the extended monsoon has aggravated sore eyes caused by a new strain of highly-infectious virus. Hundreds of cases of viral conjunctivitis have been reported from all over Goa, but there is no official recognition of this pandemic by the government. Extended monsoon would cause a rapid rise in arthropod-borne diseases.
On Friday, October 22, Panaji experienced sudden high intensity showers which combined with an incoming tide flooded the city. Principles of environmental and storm water drainage engineering demand that cities provide enough uncovered surface for natural percolation of the rains. But maximum surface of Panaji which needs to soak the rains has been concretised. So the storm water now floods the streets and brings the traffic to a halt. The consequences of such flooding are dangerous because the tide churns and empties the iron sulphide rich black sediment of Mandovi teeming with enteric pathogens in Panaji.
The government has intentionally blocked the natural mouths of Santa Inez creek. Shoal formation near the Children’s Park and concrete cross wall near the indoor stadium has stopped the natural tidal circulation in Santa Inez creek. The deposit of toxic, pathogen containing sediment left behind by tides then enters Panaji’s public water supply. It contaminates the drinking water. Mandovi and Zuari drain into the Arabian Sea. But the Arabian Sea itself is warming up. Nothing has been learnt from cyclones like ‘Gonu’ and ‘Fyan’. Present trends indicate that higher sea surface temperature (SST) would launch more cyclones during November.
In practical economic terms, extended monsoon means constant damp weather, higher humidity, accelerated corrosion, rapid bio-deterioration of timber, waterproofing, plastering, paints. Food spoilage would be a major problem. Extended monsoon means higher soil moisture benefiting the voracious wood and paper attacking termites. Cashew and mango cultivators don’t welcome prolonged rains because these affect normal flowering cycle of crops.
Extended monsoon affects our biological clocks and also reduces the workplace productivity and efficiency. Extended monsoons delay the normal onset of the winter. Since the days are short during October-December, sudden rainfall makes transportation and communication difficult. Just one single intense shower brings most of Goa’s urban transportation arteries to a grinding halt.
It has become difficult for IMD to pinpoint the actual retreat of the monsoon. November is notorious for cyclones and super-cyclones over the Bay of Bengal. Such weather system could delay retreat of monsoon from south western India. Shall we then be prepared to have sudden intense showers every week? How any economy would adapt and adjust to such changes?
Goa has not developed any capacitance to face extended monsoon. Good economics means good planning. Do we have new designs of roads which can withstand wear and tear by an extended monsoon? How roof designs, waterproofing and drainages can be improved? How exterior plasters of buildings can be made stronger? How mosquito-borne and water-borne diseases would be checked?
How Can We Gain
There are positive consequences of extended monsoon. If agriculture and water resources department plan and begin a campaign they can teach the farmers to benefit from higher soil moisture and choose a basket of irrigated cash crops. Before Goa became highly urbanised, farmers used to welcome rains in October and November. It was an agrarian economy which did not waste stored water. Farmers used to take three to four crops. Now their dependence on late maturing highbred rainfed paddy has increased. Extended monsoon could be a blessing for ensuring drinking water supply of the state. Actually such showers recharge the groundwater depleted during summer. Extended monsoons are also beneficial for better fish harvest because more nutrients are carried by the streams to the rivers and estuaries.
After proper assessment of damage, the state government needs to declare extended monsoon as a ‘natural calamity’ to compensate the farmers who’ve lost their crops. Goa needs to be on alert in November to face extreme weather phenomena.