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Monsoon: A Blessing And A Curse

MONSOON. For some that word means fleeing to drier, sunnier lands for the summer. For others, it inspires happiness as it means cooler weather and plentiful rain. 

80% of India’s total rainfall takes place between June and September as the southwest monsoon moves across the country. 

India is lucky to have such a season as it is not a global phenomenon, and it keeps the economy – still predominantly dependent on agriculture – going. 

60% of India’s agriculture is rain-fed, and the timely arrival and adequacy of the monsoon is vital to farmers’ practices. 

But it can be a blessing and a curse. A bad monsoon can be interpreted negatively by foreign investors since the economy so heavily relies on agriculture and more than half of India’s population is employed by the sector. 

Failed monsoons often lead to the reduction in ground water levels and major water bodies and reservoirs drying up – forcing cities into water crises – like what we saw this year in Chennai – and people to be dependent on water tank operators just to meet their daily water needs. 

And while our water sources and agriculture benefit from the abundant rain, it can also cause hours of frustrating delays on waterlogged streets not built to manage the rivers flowing down them, potholes, and a lack of transportation as everyone scrambles for drier ways to get around the city. But those are just general inconveniences of the rainy season. 

Recent rains brought chaos to Mumbai and life to a grinding halt. Trains stopped, flights were diverted, and more than 20 people died. 

Excessive rains often force dams to release excess water that results in flooding and leads to ruined crops, dangerous flash floods, collapse of infrastructure, landslides, and other issues. These floods are largely preventable, but poor city planning, expanding developments that encroach on traditional flood plains and strip natural resources, shoddy construction of infrastructure, unsustainable farming practices, and mismanagement of water resources have amplified the effects of the rains. 

But it’s not just these troubles triggered by the rains. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is another huge aspect of the issues caused by the monsoon.

Other than the obvious need to appropriately harvest and store water for farming and agriculture, the development sector also works to address the shortages of clean water in our cities and villages. 

A lack of access to clean water affects almost every aspect of society’s health and hygiene – standing pools of dirty water attract mosquitoes which can spread malaria and dengue and a lack of clean drinking water can result in diarrhoea and other waterborne illnesses.

When communities have their health regularly compromised because of these issues, India’s mortality rates, public health, and child development are impacted in the long term. 

Support NGOs working to allay these concerns for Indians. 

  • Goonj provide relief and rehabilitation in the face of such disasters.
  • Universal Versatile Society support communities affected by climate change (read: the fickle variability of the monsoons).
  • Centre for Youth and Social Development help impoverished communities living in cyclone-prone Odisha devastated post-disaster.
  • Baale Mane Trust’s WASH programming includes providing safe water and protection from mosquitoes in their quest to serve disadvantaged, abandoned girls.

-by Micah Branaman-Sharma

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