Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Mumbai Braces for Floods From Highest Monsoon Tide Since 1982" ...

Mumbai Braces for Floods From Highest Monsoon Tide Since 1982

For two decades, Kanti Gada, a decorative wood seller in south Mumbai, sent a worker to unclog the street drain outside his shop during the monsoon.

"My shop gets flooded with two feet of dirty water once every monsoon and I lose up to 20,000 rupees" ($416), said Gada, president of Grant Road Retail Traders Association. "A walk through that water will guarantee you'll get a disease."

This year's monsoon has an added peril for Mumbai's century-old sewers. On July 24, the rain may combine with the highest tide in 27 years, backing up drains in a city that's largely built on reclaimed land.

The combination will test a half-completed program to widen drains and install pumps started in 2007 after floods killed more then 700 people and closed the exchanges, businesses and airport. The city had rejected an earlier drainage proposal in the 1990s on the grounds of cost.

"For India to take its growth to a higher trajectory it needs to spend a lot more on upgrading urban infrastructure, especially the financial capital of Mumbai," said Shubhada Rao, chief economist at YES Bank Ltd. in the city. "There have been far too many delays."

Mumbai and its suburbs are home to 18 million people, India's two main stock exchanges and the nation's biggest trading centers for bullion, diamonds and commodities. With 27,348 people per square kilometer, it's the world's fifth most populous metropolis, according to a London School of Economics study.

More Funds

On July 6, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he is adding 3 billion rupees to the 2 billion already provided this year to hasten completion of the four-year drainage project.

The tide at Mumbai could surge 5.05 meters on July 24, compared with an average 4 meters, said Vilas Vaidya, chief officer at the city's disaster management department. The authority considers any tide higher than 4.5 meters as dangerous.

"We need to worry only if the high tide combines with heavy rains," R.A. Rajeev, additional municipal commissioner said on the phone. "Water stagnation could disrupt traffic."

Memories of the flood in 2005 are fresh in the minds of Mumbaikars. On July 26 that year, wealth manager Amitava Neogi got a call from his 8-year-old daughter at 10 p.m., begging him to come home. He left his office in south Mumbai to drive 30 kilometers through monsoon rains. It took him 20 hours.

"There is no way I am going to do it again," said Neogi, whose car got stuck halfway home in a torrent of water. "It's best to stay put at a safe place."

On July 26-27, 2005, the city got a record 944mm of rain in 24 hours, or almost half its average annual rainfall.

New Pumps

Kishore Gajbhiye, additional commissioner at Municipal Corp. of Greater Mumbai, which oversees the drains, said the 20 billion rupee drainage program should prevent flooding this year.

"We have taken several measures to de-silt and widen drains," he said in a phone interview. "We have also set up pumps at 211 locations to reduce water-logging. We have told people to be careful in the week of July 20."

The city's trains and roads struggle to transport its 9 million commuters even on a normal week during the four-month rainy season. As much as 70 percent of the city's annual 2 meters of rain falls in July and August. The July 24 tide is expected to be the highest during the monsoon since the 5.09 meters reached on July 21, 1982, according to Survey of India.

Century Old

The upgrading project, "Brimstowad," was proposed in 1993 and is due to be completed by 2011, said Rajeev. There are 440 kilometers of drains in the old part of the city, most of which are a century old, and another 2,000 kilometers in the suburbs.

Land reclamation and development in the center and north has removed natural drainage and mangrove, exacerbating flooding, according to a study by Kapil Gupta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, in Mumbai.

The Mithi River, fed from a lake that supplies drinking water, is today no more than an open drain carrying waste and sewage along its 15 kilometers. Authorities are de-silting the river after encroachment from slums, the airport and the new upscale offices of the Bandra-Kurla business district.

"The government has created this glitzy office complex by eating into the river's banks," said Sabir Khan, 59, a fruit seller, who's seen the Mithi narrow each year over 25 monsoons. In 2005, the Mithi overflowed, flooding the airport.

Some companies told workers to take precautions. Tata Motors Ltd., which put up stranded employees at its hotels in 2005, gives employees the option to go home early if the weather is deteriorating, said spokesman Debasis Ray. The U.S. consulate told its citizens to be watchful of missing drain-covers.

"People have become super-cautious," said Sheik Dawood, 53, an assistant general manager with ICICI Bank Ltd. "The administration has failed."

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Monsoon could revive over Delhi soon

There finally seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Delhi and other parts of north west India, who have been subjected to muggy weather for the last several days even as the monsoons lashed other parts of the country.

Weather experts at the India Meteorological Department are expecting a good spell of rains over Delhi and its neighbourhood next week. "Weather forecasting models are indicating that rains could revive over the north west region of the country from about Tuesday (July 14)."

The forecasting models, they said, showed that a low pressure area could develop over the west central and adjoining north west region of the Bay of Bengal around Sunday, and that the western end of the monsoon trough, which is presently over south Rajasthan, could move northwards.

Preliminary signals

The experts are, however, keeping their fingers crossed as the signals are currently preliminary in nature. "It may take two more days for the situation to become clear."

There are also indications of a low pressure that could form over the north eastern region of the Arabian Sea around Friday.

But the scientists are hoping that instead of hampering rains from coming to the north west, it would help the process, as there were also signals that it could move westwards.

"Normally, the formation of a low pressure area over the north eastern region of the Arabian Sea is not a favourable condition for rains to come to north west India. But fortunately, it is expected to move westwards and that would help," they said.

Meanwhile, the north west region could get some scattered rains over the next three to four days.

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Keep World's Avg. Temps From Rising More Than 2 Degrees Celsius

Leaders of the exclusive club of eight industrialized nations opened up their forum Thursday to the five fastest developing market economies -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- tacit admission that their leadership alone is not enough to fix the world's major problems. The so-called Group of Five, making their fifth straight appearance at the annual summit, albeit as invited guests, will discuss climate change, development aid, global economic growth and international trade with their Group of Eight counterparts -- all topics touched on by G-8 leaders meeting on their own Wednesday. The G-5, along with special invitee Egypt, on Wednesday urged a resumption of the stalled Doha trade round, noting that the developing countries were particularly damaged by protectionist trends emerging from the global economic crisis. Stronger multilateral trading, they said, would play a role in promoting development and reducing poverty. "We are concerned with the present state of the world economy, which submits the developing countries to an inordinate burden resulting from a crisis they did not initiate," the G-5 said in a statement after a preparatory meeting Wednesday. Concluding the Doha Round would aid "the restoration of confidence in the world markets and inhibit emerging protectionist trends," the G-5 said. Among the G-8 leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have been particularly vocal that the G-8 needs to be expanded to better represent the world's population and economies. Sarkozy told reporters on Wednesday that a possible formula would be to have the G-8 meet within the structure of a G-20, major economies taking the lead on ways out of the economic crisis, or a G-14, combining the industrialized nations and emerging economies forums. In their statement, the G-5 called for greater inclusion in international decision-making, noting its members' positive contributions to tackling global challenges. On the issue of aid, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that the leaders have decided they need to change the way they help Africa, and introduce a mechanism of accountability to review efforts. "We want our funds to go to precise investments, schools, buildings and so on," Berlusconi told reporters. Berlusconi also has said the G-8 was looking into establishing an agricultural development fund for Africa, to shift away from giving handouts to the poor to helping them grow their own food. Italy has been under intense criticism going into the G-8 summit for having maintained only 3 percent of its aid pledges of $3.5 billion to Africa made at a 2005 G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. The G-8 at that time promised to increase aid to sub-Saharan Africa by US$25 billion a year by 2010. Berlusconi has acknowledged Italy's failure to respect its Glenagles aid pledges, but has said it only was a delay and that he had no other choice but to cut aid because of Italy's mounting debts and the global financial crisis. "I'm sorry we didn't keep our promises," he said in an interview over the weekend with Bob Geldof, musician and head of the anti-poverty group ONE, which has shamed Italy for its poor performance. The United Nations Millennium Campaign, which monitors the Gleneagles goals, urged leaders not to turn their backs on the world's poorest during the L'Aquila summit, warning that the economic crisis will force developing countries, such as Laos, Senegal, Uganda, Cape Verde and Sudan, to slash spending for the poor. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya could run out of foreign reserves needed to purchase goods "in a matter of weeks." "When world leaders break a promise, it is a sin, but when governments break a promise to the poorest people on the planet, it is nothing short of a crime," said Salil Shetty, director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign.

The campaign called on leaders to announce clear timetables for aid delivery promised in 2005, provide new financing to poor countries, not merely dress up old commitments, improve aid quality, and eliminate agricultural and export subsidies.

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El Nino gaining, India keeps fingers crossed

In a development that could have a bearing on the remaining monsoon season, Australia's weather bureau on Wednesday reported an

People pray for rain
People perform a 'Parjanya Yagna' to appease the Rain Gods at a temple in Ahmedabad. (PTI File Photo)

increased El Nino weather pattern and said it was a medium-strength event at the moment.

``We are warming reasonably rapidly. The models tend to suggest something reasonably warm,'' Andrew Watkins from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology was quoted by agencies as saying, as Australia issued its latest El Nino report.

How fast the warming takes place over equatorial Pacific Ocean will, among other factors, determine how the monsoon fares in India. On June 24, the Indian Met department had forecast a `near normal' monsoon with 93% rains in the country while north India was predicted to receive a worryingly low 81% of normal rain.

El Nino, meaning `little boy' in Spanish, is a name given to abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean which wreaks havoc on weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region. A strong El Nino can lead to monsoon failure in Asia and droughts in Australia as well as wetter-than-normal weather in parts of South America.

``Our prediction was based on the assumption that El Nino would set in gradually and its effect on the southwest monsoon in India will start showing only by September. If the warming takes place faster, the monsoon may weaken earlier than expected and there could be less rain than what we have predicted,'' D S Pai, director of IMD Pune's National Climate Centre, told TOI.

Pai added that there's was yet no clear evidence to suggest that El Nino will set in faster than what the IMD had accounted for. The Australian bureau didn't say how fast El Nino was expected to gather strength but said there was ``very little chance of the current development stalling or reversing''.

Pai said, ``These are weather phenomenon and we can never be sure.''

``El Nino is the name given to warming of the ocean. When it couples with the atmospheric southern oscillation, it begins to affect our part of the world. We don't know when the coupling will take place,'' Pai said.

El Nino hasn't been formally declared yet. For that, higher than normal temperatures - of the order of 0.5 degree Celsius or higher - have to be recorded over the Pacific for three successive months.

The weather anamoly is developing in the midst of the worst global recession since the Great Depression of the 1920s. Coincidentally, the last severe El Nino was in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis was at its peak.

Reports say the 1998 El Nino killed over 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and Asia

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Hotter June in city than in the past two years

July is usually a month of pleasant weather, with normal day temperature not exceeding 35. 2 degrees Celsius. However, on Monday, the Nungambakkam observatory recorded 38 degrees C, nearly three degrees above normal. Although weather experts attribute it to the delayed progression of the southwest monsoon, the last two months in the city have been perceived as unusually hot.

Many Chennaiites felt they had experienced a delayed Khatri' (the hottest period of the year, in May) in June, with the days seemingly hotter than the normal average of 36.9 degrees C for the month. And statistics proved them right - day temperature exceeded 40 degrees C on not less than ten days in June this year.

"The average day temperature in June is around 37 degrees C, but it was hotter this year compared to the past three years, " said Y E A Raj, deputy director general, meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), Chennai. "We expected a cooler July, but due to the weak monsoon we are receiving north-westerly winds, resulting in warmer temperatures. Coupled with the lack of clouds, the day temperatures have really shot up," added Raj. Although rains are not forecast for Tamil Nadu during the southwest monsoon, many districts in the state receive rain from June till September, which brings down day temperatures, according to him.

Data made available by the Met department reveals that between 2001 and 2008, mercury touched 40 degrees C and beyond on 10 days in 2003 and 11 days in 2005. However, temperature remained well below the 40-degrees mark in 2002, 2004 and 2006. In 2005, 40 degrees C was recorded only on five days while in 2007, only one day was as hot and in 2008 there were two days when temperature touched 40 degrees C.

"This June, the sea breeze set in after 2pm on most days, and did not set in at all for a few days due to the westerlies.When sea breeze is delayed, the heat experienced is more acute," said Raj. "Traditionally, the temperature reduces progressively over the month of the July, and if the southwest monsoon continues to hold, we can look forward to pleasant days," he added.

The normal weather for July is 35. 2 degrees C, but in the week gone by the lowest recorded was 34.5 on July 5.

Days in June 2009 when maximum temperature crossed 40 degree Celsius in Nungambakkam

June 2 : 40. 6

June 3: 40.3

June 4: 40.8

June 5: 40.1

June9 : 40.1

June 10: 40.2

June15: 40.1

June 23: 40.3

June 24: 40.1

June25 : 40.6

The month showed a 2. 3 degree departure from normal. The normal temperature is 36. 9 degree Celsius, based data from 1969 to 2008.

Day temperatures in July in Nungambakkam

July 6 : 38

July 5 : 34. 5

July 4: 36. 4

July 3 : 36. 6

July 2 : 37. 1

July 1 : 38. 8

The normal temperature during July is 35. 2 degree Celsius.

Days in the last nine years when day temperature exceeded 40 degree C in June in Nungambakkam:

2008 : 2

2007: 1

2006: 0


2004 :0

2003: 10

2002: 0

2001 :5

Chennai - Sudden small passing shower from west.. in saidapet
Chennai - Nice stiff breeze from south-west... feeling around 29 deg now.
Latest sat.shot shows:: Heavy rains north of Mumbai, northern maharastra, Whole of Konkan coast, Cloudy over Tamilnadu, Medium showers over Interior Karnataka, Very heavy rains over eastern Rajasthan and even into New Delhi... and central Bay is very active, all signs of a NEW monsoon low in 48 hrs.
Chennai - All thru the day it was FULLY overcast, and termperature was .. 36.3°C (12:31pm)
Chennai - Medium high clouds is moving in from perfect south-west. Get ready for a mild drizzle or shower after 8 pm like yesterday.
Nagercoil- Medium showers during afternoon, after that it's mild and humid.
Nagercoil - Yesterday night received medium showers and it was drizzling in morning of 9-Jul-09
And central BAY is also very active.
Latest sat. pic shows more very heavy rains for northern west coast along Mumbai in another 24 hrs.
Chennai - yesterday(8-Jul-09) high was 36.3°C (2:58pm)
Chennai - Yesterday late evening at around 9:30pm got some mild drizzles while good showers over southern and south-western suburbs.
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After almost a 40 hrs break we are back with weather updates thru

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