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Flood affected villagers in north-east India's Assam state take shelter on an embankment. Flood affected villagers in north-east India's Assam state take shelter on an embankment.  (AFP or licensors)

Heavy rains, water shortage in S. Asia a reminder of climate emergency

While parts of South Asia struggle against the onslaught of monsoon rains, elsewhere water shortage is affecting the survival and lives of millions of people.

By Robin Gomes

Heavy monsoon rains have been buffeting parts of South Asia, with a collapsing building, landslides and floods killing at least 60 people and affecting some 1.5 million others. 

Elsewhere in India, inadequate rains have led to a severe shortage of water in several states and cities.

Nepal, north India

Flooding and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have killed at least 50 people in Nepal in the past few days, with more deaths reported across the border in India and Bangladesh, officials said Sunday.

At least 30 other people were missing in Nepal, either swept away by swollen rivers or buried by mudslides since monsoon rains began pounding the region on Friday, Nepal's National Emergency Operation Centre said.

Thirty people have been treated for injuries and more than 1,100 others rescued from flooded areas. More than 10,000 are estimated to have been displaced.

Nepal's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology warned of more troubles ahead for the southern region near the main rivers, urging people to keep watch on rising water levels and move to higher ground when needed.

Rain-triggered floods, mudslides and lightning have left a trail of destruction in other parts of South Asia.

Eleven soldiers were among a dozen bodies recovered from the debris of a three-story building that collapsed on Sunday after rains hit a hilly area of Himachal Pradesh state in the north. One civilian also was killed. Several soldiers were among the 31 people rescued after the collapse in Solan town.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains continue to batter parts of the country.

Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar - where more than a million Rohingya refugees are encamped after fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar - has been hit by at least 58.5cm of rain this month.   Hundreds of landslides since April have killed at least 10 people in the camps.

With some 130 rivers crisscrossing the low-lying delta nation, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.

A Water Development Board official said about 40,000 people have been affected, mostly with their homes submerged.

North-east India

Officials in north-eastern India said at least 14 people were killed and over a million affected by flooding.  Six deaths were reported in neighbouring Arunachal state.

Floods and mudslides have also hit some other northeast Indian states, including Meghalaya, Sikkim and Mizoram.

Earlier this month, the highest rainfall in a decade in India’s financial capital Mumbai, caused several deaths and severely disrupted rail, road and air transport services. 

Seventy-five villages along river banks in Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, were put on alert on Monday as the water level of two major dams rose close to overflowing.

Water shortage

Meanwhile, acute water shortage in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state continues to worsen.  Locals continue to stand in queue for hours to take their daily supply from tankers, and city hospitals are outsourcing water from private tankers at exorbitant prices, as taps have run dry.

It is feared that severe water shortage caused by inadequate and erratic monsoon rains might cripple the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad in Telangana state. 

Twenty-one other Indian cities are also grappling with acute water shortage. 

The country’s water crisis is a stark reminder of how climate change is rapidly escalating into a climate emergency affecting the survival of millions of people.

15 July 2019, 16:49