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Climate Change, Poor Planning Make India’s Monsoon Season Devastating

BENGALURU, INDIA — Sanjay Chauhan witnessed monsoon rains lash down over his home and farm in the Indian Himalayas this year with a magnitude and intensity he’s never experienced before.

“Buildings have collapsed, roads are broken, there were so many landslides including one that has destroyed a large part of my orchard,” said the 56-year-old farmer, who lives in the town of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. “I have not seen anything like this.”

The devastation of this year’s monsoon season in India, which runs from June to September, has been significant: Local government estimates say that 428 people have died and Himachal Pradesh suffered over $1.42 billion worth in property damage since June.

Human-caused climate change is making rain more extreme in the region and scientists warn Himalayan states should expect more unpredictable and heavy seasons like this one. But the damage is also exacerbated by developers paying little mind to environmental regulations and building codes when building on flood- and earthquake-prone land, local experts and environmentalists say.

Damages to property in Himachal Pradesh this year were more than the last five years combined. Other regions also suffered heavy losses in terms of lives, property and farmland — including the neighboring state of Uttarakhand, Delhi and most northern and western Indian states.

In the second week of July, 22.4 centimeters of rainfall descended on the state instead of the usual 4.2 centimeters for this time of the year — a 431% increase — according to the Indian Meteorological Department. Then for five days in August, 11.2 centimeters poured down on Himachal Pradesh, 168% more than the 4.2 centimeters it would typically receive in that timeframe.

The rainfall spurred hundreds of landslides, with overflowing rivers sweeping vehicles away and collapsing multiple buildings, many of them recently constructed hotels. Key highways were submerged or destroyed and all schools in the region were shut. Around 300 tourists stranded near the high altitude lake of Chandratal had to be airlifted to safety by the Indian Air Force.

Source : VOA News