SOUTH ASIA: INTENSE WATER DEFICITS FORECAST TO PERSIST IN MADHYA PRADESH & AFGHANISTAN

23 April 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast indicates intense water deficits in much of Afghanistan, with exceptional deficits blanketing half of the country north of the Helmand River. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Pakistan, but conditions are expected to be intense in western Baluchistan.

In India, severe deficits are forecast in the north surrounding Chandigarh, and in the Far Northeast. Moderate deficits are expected in the center of the country in Madhya Pradesh and in the southeastern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In western Andhra Pradesh, however, extreme surplus is forecast in the Penner River watershed, and relatively mild surplus conditions are forecast along the Bay of Bengal north of Andhra Pradesh.

Elsewhere in the region, severe deficits are expected in Sri Lanka’s northern half and in Bhutan, and exceptional surpluses are expected along the Gandaki River in Nepal.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month composites (below) show the evolving conditions.

As is apparent in the map progression above, India is forecast to transition out of widespread, intense deficit to milder conditions. However, exceptional deficit is forecast through June in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Exceptional surplus is forecast to re-emerge in the south in the western Penner River watershed in Andhra Pradesh. Surplus conditions are also forecast for the southernmost tip of India, Odisha in the east, Gujarat in the west, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in the north, and along some rivers, including the Ganges watershed and the Narmada River.

Elsewhere in the region during this period, exceptional deficits in southern Afghanistan will downgrade somewhat but remain intense, and a large block of exceptional deficit will develop in the north between Herat, Mazari Sharif, and Kabul. Deficits in Pakistan will diminish, leaving primarily moderate deficits in the south with exceptional deficits near Karachi. Surplus conditions are forecast for central Nepal and much of Bangladesh.

From July through September, exceptional deficits will continue to emerge in Afghanistan, covering the west and northwest, while conditions in neighboring Pakistan are expected to be merely mild. States in India’s Far Northeast will continue to see severe to exceptional deficits, particularly Assam, while deficits in central India moderate. India’s southernmost tip will transition from surplus to moderate deficit; moderate deficits will also emerge in the north and may be severe near Chandigarh. Aforementioned surplus conditions in India will diminish considerably, leaving moderate surplus in coastal Odisha. Moderate deficits are forecast for Bhutan; Bangladesh will transition from surplus to mild deficit; and, surpluses in Nepal will retreat except along the Gandaki River where conditions will be exceptional.

The forecast for the final period – October through December 2018 – indicates that deficits in Afghanistan will downgrade to severe. Relatively mild anomalies are forecast elsewhere in South Asia.

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

IMPACTS
A settled dispute is not so settled. In February, the Indian Supreme Court ruled on a long running water dispute between the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala over water allocation rights from the Cauvery River, increasing allocations to Karnataka and decreasing Tamil Nadu's share. The ruling called for an implementation scheme to be defined by the end of March, a deadline which the central government failed to meet. Farmers in drought-stricken Tamil Nadu protested the reductions by disrupting opening day of Indian Premier League Cricket in Chennai, the state capital, prompting League officials to move the matches 600 miles away to Pune. The Supreme Court has extended the deadline for the implementation scheme to May 3.

An extended dry spell and unseasonably warm temperatures in the Kashmir Valley have resulted in an outbreak of forest fires. Recent temperatures have been 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal for the region, exacerbating dry conditions. Multiple fires have broken out burning hundreds of alpine trees and injuring a number of firefighters. Health concerns have been raised over air quality and respiratory impacts on local residents. Meanwhile, forest fires in Uttarakhand, have consumed almost 300 hectares (741 acres) of forest and plantation lands. Precipitation in the post-monsoon and winter periods were 76 percent and 66 percent less than expected, increasing the fire risk. The situation was further complicated by a forest guards' strike, which has been resolved. 

The World Bank working with the Government of India and the state of Maharashtra, is funding a climate resilient farming effort to help small and marginal farmers adopt climate resilient agricultural practices. The $420 million effort will work at the farm to watershed scale to introduce technologies such as micro-irrigation, expanded surface water storage, improve aquifer recharge, and facilitate the adoption of drought, heat, and salt resistant seed strains. The project is expected to benefit 7 million people spread over 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land.

Plans are in the works but moving slowly to relocate Rohingya refugees to higher ground as the South Asian monsoon season begins. A relatively short downpour served as a warning of things to come, damaging shelters and leaving refugees wading through standing water in parts of the Kutupalong refugee camp. As many as 150,000 people are at risk in low-lying areas. The UN is calling on the Bangladesh government to designate areas of higher ground for relocation, but Bangladesh officials are seeking to move refugees to islands in the Bay of Bengal. Aid agencies argue refugees would still be at risk from cyclones and flooding if moved there.

Work has begun in Colombo, Sri Lanka to reduce flood risk around the capital. There has been an increase in flooding in recent years that costs the Colombo District nearly $45 million annually in damage and other loses. A $320 million plan has been put in place to establish effective flood protection for the city, including $12 million for pumping stations to remove water from flood prone areas when flood gates are raised along the Kelani River.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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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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