South Asia: Water surpluses forecast to persist in Bangladesh and Nepal

22 August 2017

The Big Picture
For the 12-month forecast period ending April 2018 water deficits are forecast in much of central and southern India, while surpluses are expected in Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.

Elsewhere in the region, deficits are forecast for western Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Exceptional surpluses are expected in Bangladesh, central Nepal, and pockets of western Bhutan.

This year's monsoon flooding in South Asia is shaping up to be the worst in several years, claiming the lives of 800 people in floods and landslides in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh and displacing over a million. With waters beginning to recede officials are now concerned about water-borne illnesses, and the loss of infrastructure has inhibited food and medical relief efforts.

Flood-waters submerged more than a third of low-lying Bangladesh. Affected regions in India include Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Gujarat. And in Nepal the southern plains received the brunt of the deluge leaving Nepalese as well as foreign tourists stranded.

Drought continues to plague other parts of South Asia. Reservoirs in Kerala, India were only 25 percent full at the end of July and the state ministry reports a 29.1% deficiency in monsoon rainfall from June 1 to August 16. Kerala may have to import power if the state's hydroelectric catchments fail to receive sufficient rain. Water analysts from World Resources Institute concluded that over the last four years water shortages cost India's thermal power plants 30TWh (terawatt hours) in potential electricity generation.

After both drought and flooding ravaged Sri Lanka's agriculture and industries, the federal government has announced tax cuts and subsidized loans in an effort to spur economic growth. 

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) show the evolving conditions.

The near-term forecast – August through October – indicates that while exceptional deficits will nearly disappear in India, moderate to severe deficits will continue to emerge, covering much of the north/south extent of the country. Deficits are expected to be severe in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, northern Bihar, and Karnataka. Surpluses ranging from severe to exceptional are forecast for Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, and Mizoram. In Afghanistan exceptional deficits in the south will recede but persist. Surpluses are forecast east and south of Kabul. Deficits are forecast for central and southern Pakistan and eastern Bhutan. Exceptional surpluses will continue to emerge in much of Bangladesh and in central Nepal. Deficits in Sri Lanka will ameliorate, leaving moderate deficits in the east.

From November 2017 through January 2018 the extent of deficits in central India will diminish but intense deficits will emerge in northern Rajasthan, Punjab, southern Himachal Pradesh, coastal Gujarat, and northwestern Madhya Pradesh. Surpluses will persist in eastern Jammu and Kashmir, and diminish slightly in Gujarat, West Bengal, and Mizoram. Moderate surpluses will emerge in eastern Telangana and eastern Andhra Pradesh. Surpluses will continue to emerge in Bangladesh, and though no longer expected to be of exceptional intensity conditions will be severe. Moderate deficits are predicted for Afghanistan and Pakistan with some isolated surpluses in the north. Water conditions in Nepal and Bhutan are expected to be near-normal.

The forecast for the final period, February through April 2018, indicates a resurgence of deficits in central India.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Note on Administrative Boundaries
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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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