Menace of rain

Avinash Aima
‘Rain rain go away, come again another day, little Johnny wants to play’–this popular rhyme, collected and published by James Orchard Halliwell, is recited quite often by children in rainy season. A rainy day is unlike a normal day. Besides disturbing the normal work schedule, the cloudy and wet weather may even cause inconvenience and dampen the spirits. However few showers of rain and the landscape puts on a green cover. Rain is vital for plant life as vegetation needs water to survive. It helps in growth, development and productivity of plants. Rain water is better than artificial methods of irrigation because it doesn’t have any added chemicals such as chlorine.Rain water can also be used for drinking, bathing, washing, irrigation, sanitation, flushing of toilets, etc. Rainfall replenishes the local water reservoirs, makes environment favourable for fish and other aquatic life, boosts agriculture productivity. When absorbed in soil it maintains the water table. On the one hand lack of rain has devastating effect and may lead even to famine; like that of South Africa, when1984–85 Horn of Africa drought killed more than 7,50,000 people; while on the other hand excessive rain can transform a small stream into a raging sea of water, leading to flash floods. A period of rainy weather may cause rivers or lakes to overflow their banks, causing damage to houses and other property besides posing theat to human life. More rain is harmful even for plants. The roots of plants decay in water logged soils, resulting in stunted growth of plants. Heavy rains wash away many useful nutrients, which may cause deficiency of Nitrogen in the soil. At many places rain carries bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemicals which may cause diseases.Farmers depend on rain to nourish crops but too much rain can actually harm crop production. Several days of steady rain floods fields, washing away seeds and precious top soil. Wet weather encourages bacteria and fungus growth, which can damage crops further. Unusual amounts of rain affect the total crop yield and taste and quality of fruits and vegetables. In industrial areas we have the menace of acid rain, a term coined by Robert August(1872). Acidification of environment is a man made phenomenon. Sulphur oxides and Nitrogen oxides are produced by combustion of fossil fuels, smelters, industries, power plants, automobile exhuasts , domestic fires , etc. which mix with rain drops andresult in acid rain, that limits the benefits of rain water and harms human health andenvironment. It increases acidity of the soil, thereby affecting terrestrial flora andfauna. In plants it causes problems like Chlorosis, necrosis, defoliation, etc. As per a survey report nearly half of the natural forests have been destroyed by acid rain in Europe(Germany, Sweden, Romania, Poland, etc.). Most acidic rains have occured over West Virginia, USA with a ph of 1.5. Acid rain corrodes metals, marble, slate, stone, etc. The heritage monuments, The Thomas Jefferson memorial at Washington DC, The Taj Mahal at Agra are threatened by the corrosive action of acid deposition due to acid rain.
Incessant rain results in floods in streams and rivers, where water crosses the danger mark andcauses soil erosion along the banks . According to an estimate millions of hectares of land are destroyed this way every year, resulting in loss of Nitrogen to the extent of 2.5 lac tons, which results in deficiency of Nitrogen fertilizers. Ecological balance demands that all geographical regions should have at least 37% of forest cover. As such specific land area should be under forest cover, similarly specific areas should be allowed under agriculture, grasslands, water bodies, horticulture, etc. but the same is not seen everywhere. Man has been tampering with the nature andnatural systems increasingly in the garb of rapid urbanisation and developmental activities. In the absence of proper vegetal cover due to massive deforestation, the raindrops splash against the ground and loosen the soil. When the soil can no longer absorb anymore rain, it washes across the ground along with silt .Water overflows streams and rivers, resulting in dreadful floods.
The recent floods in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, kerala, Uttrakhand and other states had very devastating effects.In Assam 2078 villages of 18 districts were affected due to flooded Brahamputra andother tributaries, in which approx.80 people lost their life, scores of animals and buildings perished, approx two lac people were forced to take shalter in 836 relief camps. Even the Kaziranga National Park, spread over an area of 430 sq.kms.along the banks of river Brahamputra, was badly hit, approx. 187 wild animals including Hogdeers, small deers, wild boars, rhinos, sambar, swamp deer, percupine, water buffalo, elephant, etc. were carried away by water. In Bihar the scene was no different. Flooded rivers Kosi, Gandak, Adhwara, Bagmati, etc. resulted in the death of approx. 130 people and 152 animals. Crops, buildings, roads got washed away and four lac people were forced to take shalter in 1358 relief camps. A heavy downpour for some days in Bihar very recently left the streets of even the posh areas of Patna flooded for many days and caused innumerable problems for the common man .The story has been no different in other states like Kerala, Uttrakhand, etc.
The memories of flood of Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014 are still fresh in our mind when 80,000 people were affected in 2250 villages. Scores of people lost their life, the flood was worst in the past 60 years. Similarly cloud burst in Ladakh on the night of 6 August,2010, when it rained 14 inches in 2 hours and affected 71 towns and villages including Leh, Ladakh. Many people lost their life and many went missing while many more were wounded. It destroyed many buildings including District Hospital building at Leh.
Due to excessive rain the quality of drinking water is also affected because the fast moving water carries along with soil chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other water pollution causing material, which is detrimental to aquatic life. Floods and landslides disrupt telecommunication and road transport. As per a report appearing in Science Daily 25% of car accidents occur during bad weather and wet roads which become slippery. Floods, landslides, mudslides, etc are the menaces associated with heavy rainfall, which sound alarm of danger for life and property. In US, which maintains some of the most advanced flood warning & communication systems in the world, floods kill 140 people and cause damage worth $ 6 billion every year. Too much rain can lead to a host of other problems, many of which can linger long after the rainstorm ends.
Excess rain brings negative effects for wildlife, the environment and even the economy. Landslides also have devastating effect on farmer’s livelihoods as they can prevent access to land for years, destroy seed and food stocks. Besides causing damage to property , injury and even death landslides adversely effect a variety of resources—water availability, its quality and quantity , while the erosion left behind by landslides leaves behind rugged landscapes that are unsightly, the pile of soil . Ever since the advent of man on the surface of Earth the challenge was how to protect himself from natural calamities like thunder storm, winds, lightening, rainfall, snow fall , etc. but today the challenge before the modern man is how he can coexist, as a component of the natural system ,use its resources judiciously and strike a balance, so that both nature and man can live together in perfect harmony.