SOUTH ASIA: EXCEPTIONAL WATER DEFICITS WILL PERSIST IN AFGHANISTAN

19 June 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast indicates exceptional water deficits in Afghanistan’s northern half and deficits of varying severity throughout much of the rest of the country. Intense deficits are forecast for southern Pakistan as well, reaching exceptional levels in western Baluchistan and eastern Sindh.

In India, moderate to severe deficits are forecast in the northwest for Punjab, Chandigarh, and northwestern Rajasthan; in Assam in the Far Northeast; and along the southeast coast.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast in Jammu and Kashmir and moderate surpluses in West Bengal.

Elsewhere in the region, moderate to exceptional surpluses are expected in Bangladesh and in central Nepal along the Gandaki River well past the border into Bihar, India. Moderate surpluses are forecast for southwestern Sri Lanka.

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

As is apparent in the map progression, India is forecast to transition out of widespread deficit to milder conditions. In Afghanistan, however, exceptional deficits remain in the forecast, retreating only slightly in the north and emerging throughout much of the south. Pakistan should get a reprieve as exceptional deficits diminish considerably, leaving moderate to severe deficits in western Baluchistan, along with some pockets of exceptional deficit near the Afghan border.

Normal water conditions are expected to prevail in a wide band across central India. Moderate deficits are forecast for northern Karnataka, Telangana, eastern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, but deficits are expected to be severe in southern Kerala. Severe to exceptional deficits will emerge in India’s Far Northeast, particularly Assam. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for West Bengal into northern Odisha and eastern Jharkhand, and some exceptional surpluses will persist in Jammu and Kashmir. Conditions of both deficit and surplus are forecast in the western Penner River watershed in Andhra Pradesh and into eastern Karnataka.

Surpluses are forecast for northwestern and central Nepal which may be exceptional along the Gandaki River leading into Bihar, India. Surpluses in Bangladesh will shrink slightly and while remaining intense, especially in Dhaka Division, will downgrade overall from exceptional. Moderate deficits will persist in Sri Lanka’s northern tip and intense surpluses will persist in the south.

From September through November exceptional deficits in Afghanistan will continue to shrink but persist, particularly in the south, while primarily moderate to severe deficits dominate the north. Severe deficits will persist on the Harirud River and severe to exceptional on the lower Helmand. Deficits in southwest Pakistan are forecast to increase and upgrade slightly overall. Mild deficits are forecast for much of India, with some moderate deficits in the southern tip and parts of the Gangetic Plain, and more severe deficits in India’s Far Northeast and in Bhutan. Surpluses are expected to diminish in West Bengal, and nearly disappear in Nepal and Bangladesh. Moderate to severe surpluses are forecast for eastern Jammu and Kashmir. Sri Lanka will transition to relatively normal water conditions.

The forecast for the final period – December through February – indicates that deficits will diminish but persist in Afghanistan and will increase in India, with particular intensity in Gujarat.

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

IMPACTS
Widespread drought is leaving two million people in Afghanistan facing food shortages. Twenty of the country's 34 provinces have been severely affected, including the nation's food basket in the north. A 70 percent precipitation deficit over the last several months caused the failure of the first of three annual harvests. Without fodder, many herders have sent their starving livestock to pasture in neighboring Turkmenistan, though thousands have already died. The Afghan government has begun delivering aid in what’s predicted to be a months-long period of severe food insecurity requiring national and international humanitarian assistance.

Facing a cotton shortfall due to drought, Pakistan plans on importing 20,000 tons from Afghanistan. Pakistani farmers are speculating that harvests will decline by 40 percent this year over last year’s harvests due to drought, which was exacerbated this year by intense spring heat waves. In March, temperatures across Pakistan averaged 10 degrees Celsius higher (18 degrees Fahrenheit) than the March average between 1981 and 2010. In what may be a new world record for the month of April, the southern city of Nawabshah hit 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). Last month, 65 people died from heatstroke in the city of Karachi. As the average temperature in Pakistan has increased by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 50 years, intense heat waves are becoming more frequent and worsening the country’s water insecurity.

The coastal town of Marawila, Sri Lanka received over 350 mm (13 inches) of rain in four days during a late-May storm that killed 24 and displaced over 75,000 people. Improved early warning systems, including text messaging, social media, and advance mobilization of response teams, are credited with sparing Sri Lankans from heavier damages with clear and timely warnings about the storm.

The heavy monsoonal rains prompted Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry to issue a “red alert” in early June on Leptospirosis, also known as “rat fever,” in several flood-affected districts, advising those with exposure to standing water to obtain preventative medicines.

Flood events in the current Bangladeshi fiscal year caused extensive damage to the domestic rice crop and contributed in part to the country’s largest rice import on record. Normally the fourth-largest rice producer worldwide, Bangladesh became a major importer this year, increasing India’s non-basmati rice exports by 38 percent.

Business owners in the coastal Indian city of Mangalore, Karnataka, claimed that a pre-monsoon rain storm which hit late last month was the worst in decades. The flooding swamped roads and damaged businesses and houses, causing an estimated Rs 51.37 lakh (USD $5,137,000) in losses. Children stranded in water-logged schools were ferried by boat, and fire and rescue personnel were deployed.

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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