After massive floods, Kerala now faces the possibility of a partial drought

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  • In the second week of August, the state received 250% more rainfall than usual, leading to massive flooding.
  • However, in the first week of September, total rainfall in the state plummeted by 86% to 7.9mm.
  • The drop in rainfall also comes at a time when Kerala’s groundwater levels have depleted, topsoil has been eroded and average daily temperatures have risen.
The primary reason for Kerala’s massive floods were clear. In the second week of August, the state received 250% more rainfall than usual, with some districts like Idukki - the worst hit from the floods - experiencing a 450% increase in rainfall, as per data from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). The state’s many dams did not have the capacity to hold the rainfall and had to release water.

The rains slowly abated in the third and fourth weeks of August which allowed rescue and relief efforts to accelerate. However, since the start of September, the state’s rainfall has declined to an extent that no one expected. Between 30 August and 5 September, total rainfall fell 86% to 7.9mm, according to the IMD.

This is the first real drop in rainfall since the monsoon season began. For the sake of comparison, up until this point, the state’s total rainfall in the previous three months had been 33% higher.

The drop in rainfall also comes at a time when Kerala’s groundwater levels have depleted. The flooding has led to the erosion of topsoil all over the state, which hinders the infiltration of water. This, coupled with a rise in the average daily temperatures and declining river flow has lead to difficult conditions in some parts of the state.

While rainfall is expected to pick up later this month, a subdued showing could lead to a partial drought. With the erosion of topsoil, restarting agricultural operations will also be difficult. Farmers in Northern Kerala have been complaining about the mass death of earthworms, which contribute to the enrichment of soil and nourishment of crops. To make matters worse for farmers, microfinance institutions and small finance banks will see their lending operations hit in the short-term as loan recoveries are delayed.

The floods might have receded. But Kerala’s problems could be far from over.
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