Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Warm weather in midst of downpour is cause for concern

| JULY 06, 2024, 12:41 AM IST

The month of June recorded 2.8 per cent surplus rainfall, and July witnessed steady rains for the past few days wiping off the initial deficit. By any yardstick, and going by past experiences, Goa should have been cooler with the hangover of the summer, long wiped off with the downpour. Unfortunately, it has not. Strangely, the State has been witnessing an unprecedented warm spell with high humidity levels even though it has been pouring outside.

Dr AK Saran, a senior principal scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography, while speaking to this newspaper, has highlighted an unusual trend of night temperatures remaining in the range of 26 to 27 degrees which is very high, compared to the normal 22 to 23 degrees experienced during the monsoon. Another expert explains that the surface warmth persists because the soil moisture has not been replenished, for which the State would need very strong spells of rain.

There has been a striking difference between the monsoon now and patterns of previous years. Experts believe that atmospheric changes have altered the monsoon pattern. They pointed out that the earth’s surface is so parched that the water retention has been reduced with the decrease in green cover which has also affected the moisture circulation in the air.

Climate change essentially means a drastic variation in temperatures, and Goa, which has taken the road to speedy development is certainly feeling the heat. Goa is witnessing strange patterns of isolated rainfall with some areas remaining dry while others getting excess coverage. The concept of sustainable and balanced development comes for serious questioning against the backdrop of these changing weather patterns.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its ‘explainer’ acknowledges that in recent years, rapid urbanization has led to the widespread cutting down of trees to make way for expanding infrastructure and housing needs. It mentions that relentless deforestation has resulted in significant environmental degradation, affecting air quality, climate stability, and biodiversity and disrupting the ecological balance. It also highlights its initiatives like  Van Mahotsav, known as  ‘the festival of trees,’ which holds a promise of restoring a balance of green across the nation. States, including Goa, engage in annual tree plantation drives between July 1 and 7 with pomp by distributing saplings and conducting plantation drives.

The question is whether Van Mahotsav is helping, or whether we are going through the motions to show that we care for Mother Nature. Statistics suggest India is way behind the targeted increase in forest cover even though funds have been allocated. Under MGNREGA, around Rs 14,440 crore has been spent on planting trees between 2015-16 to 2019-20, however, there has been no evaluation in terms of area covered and density of plantation. 

While on one side there is the argument of afforestation, the rampant destruction of green cover forms the flip side of the story. Rampant cutting of trees like those seen in Siolim and other parts of the State does not bode well for the narrative of sustainable development. The recent developments at the proposed Borim bridge are testimony to the fact that the environment and farmlands become secondary when it comes to development. The western bypass at Margao that dissects fields is another example.

Climate change has been an issue that the world is currently grappling with. Goa has seen the winds of change blowing thick and fast, and the heat is piling on. The government needs to respect the environment, introspect and course-correct before we reach a point of no return.

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