A study published this year by M Rajeevan, the former secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, and senior meteorologists Kamaljit Ray, R.K. Giri, S.S. Ray and A.P. Dimri showed that at least 1.4 lakh people lost their lives in 50 years between 1970 and 2019, owing to extreme weather conditions in India.
Researchers based this extreme weather study data collected from the India Meteorological Department to analyse mortality rates both at the national and state level. The purpose of the study was to provide necessary inputs to the government for prioritising its disaster management policy towards specific disasters and vulnerable states.
The study further showed that floods and tropical cyclones have been two major disasters causing the highest mortality, in India as a whole though heatwaves and lightning are gaining importance.
At all India levels, the mortality per extreme weather event (EWE) dropped by 48.6% in the last two decades compared to the previous two decades. Much of this decrease was due to a decline in mortalities caused by tropical cyclones and floods, which account for 75% of the total mortalities caused by various EWEs, said the report.
Mortalities due to extreme weather events in Northeast India
The study also compared the mortality rate due to weather extremities of the 5 decades with recent data of deaths per million population between 2000-2019. A minimum of 0.05 per cent is the least for a state to be considered having a ‘significant’ mortality rate in this comparison.
The Assam data showed a slight improvement in recent decades compared to the 1970-2019 period. Between 2000 and 2019, the mortality rate in the state was 2.4 per cent against 2.6 per cent reported in the 5-decade duration.
These deaths were caused due to floods, causing immense destruction each year in the region, following incessant rains.
The report showed that the mortality rate due to heatwaves in Assam between 1970 to 2019 was 0.03. This number increased to 0.57 per cent in the state between the 2000-2019 period.
The study also showed that the mortality rate in Assam between 1970-2019 was 0.12 per cent which increased to 0.17 in the 2000-2019 period.
Apart from Assam, an illustration of the state-wise distribution of mortality rate by EWEs showed that 5 per million persons lost their lives in Arunachal Pradesh due to floods between 2000-2019, said the report.
Another illustration of mortality rates by EWEs in states with a population less than 15 million showed about 2.5 deaths per million per year in Mizoram, less than 2 deaths per million per year in Meghalaya, about 8 deaths per million per year in Sikkim and less than 1 death per million population per year in states of Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura.
NE states not in top 5 with highest mortality rates by EWEs
Interestingly, the study does not list Assam or any Northeast states among the top 5 states with the highest mortality rates due to extreme weather events. This may come as a surprise to some since Assam floods are considered one of the worst and most devastating natural calamities faced by any state in India.
Natural disasters are categorised into 3 major categories based on their severity, vulnerability of the people residing in the area and the capacity of authorities to deal with the situation. It is also noteworthy that Assam’s floods and erosions have still not been categorised or ascertained.
The report did, however, conclude that in the last two decades, high population states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Maharashtra, Kerala, and West Bengal suffered from maximum mortalities, hence, there is a need to prioritise these states for developing action plans.
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