South Asia: Intense water deficits forecast for Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, & Karnataka

28 February 2019

The 12-month forecast through October 2019 indicates water deficits in nearly all of India, but deficits will be especially intense in the southern half of the country. Exceptional deficits are forecast for western Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and northern Tamil Nadu. Surpluses are forecast for Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in the north.

In Pakistan, deficits are forecast in the south and will be intense in the southwest, and surpluses are expected in the north and along rivers in the north including the Indus River. In Afghanistan, moderate to exceptional deficits are expected in the south and surpluses in the northeast around Kabul.

Moderate deficits are forecast for Nepal and moderate to severe deficits in Bhutan. In Bangladesh, moderate surpluses are forecast for Chittagong Division in the east and across the border into Mizoram, India.

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

The near-term forecast through April indicates that, while exceptional deficits in Gujarat and in the south will downgrade, widespread deficits of varying intensity are forecast in western and southern India, especially Gujarat, western Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Surpluses will re-emerge in Uttar Pradesh in the western Gangetic Plain and throughout most of Nepal. Severe to exceptional surpluses will persist in India’s northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in the Far Northeast.

In Bangladesh, moderate to severe surpluses will persist but conditions may be exceptional in Chittagong Division in the east and in neighboring Mizoram, India. Moderate deficits are forecast for southeastern Pakistan; both deficits and surpluses along the southern Indus River; and extreme surpluses along rivers in the north. In Afghanistan, moderate deficits are forecast in the west and surpluses around Kabul in the northeast.

From May through July, deficits will moderate overall in India but will increase in extent, emerging across the breadth of the country. The western Gangetic Plain will transition from surplus to moderate deficit and moderate deficits will increase in the eastern Plain. Some pockets of severe to extreme deficit are forecast for western Maharashtra and eastern Tamil Nadu, and deficits in the Far Northeast will intensify as severe deficits increase. Moderate surpluses are expected in a pocket of southern Tamil Nadu, and surpluses in northern India will diminish.

Nepal and Bangladesh will transition from surplus to moderate deficit. Moderate surpluses are expected along much of the Indus River in Pakistan and between the Jhelum and Chenab Rivers in the north, and surpluses will increase in the far north. In Afghanistan, surpluses will persist around Kabul and moderate deficits in the west with some pockets of greater intensity.

The forecast for the final months – August through October – indicates merely mild deficits overall in India with some moderate to severe conditions in the east along the Bay of Bengal and in the Far Northeast, and surpluses in Jammu and Kashmir. Deficits will intensify in southwestern Pakistan and exceptional surpluses will emerge on the northern Indus River. Deficits will also intensify in western Afghanistan and will emerge in the north; surpluses will linger around Kabul.

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

A flash flood in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province killed at least 30 people early last month, and an accompanying landslide killed dozens of others. Those killed were believed to be illegally mining for gold in a riverbed when the flood overtook them.

Drought in two of India’s top sugar-producing states, Maharashtra and Karnataka, hindered planting in December, threatening a drop in sugar production for the 2019/20 season. The June through September monsoon season left Maharashtra with 23 percent less rainfall than normal and Karnataka’s deficit reached 29 percent.

A rare January deluge flooded the city of Karachi, Pakistan, while providing some relief to severe drought in the province of Balochistan that has affected nearly half a million people. At least one person died from electrocution after power was downed in Karachi during the storm and another was killed by a landslide in Kohistan district.

India’s Meteorological Department released a statement announcing that rainfall during the 2018 northeast monsoon season between October and December, which typically contributes 30 to 60 percent of annual rainfall in southern Indian states, totaled a mere 56 percent of the long-term average. Every subdivision in the south except Kerala experienced a rainfall deficit, leading to speculation of an impending acute water crisis in several states.

Pakistan is sending inspectors to visit India’s latest hydroelectric project along the Chenab River, which India’s prime minister vows will continue to be constructed. The Chenab hydroelectric development is another point of contention between the two countries surrounding terms of the Indus Waters Treaty. The treaty, signed in the 1960s and brokered by the World Bank, establishes shared management of the six trans-boundary rivers between the two countries, and this project threatens to test its mettle amid what is widely considered a water crisis in the region.

Just as Pakistan was negotiating a bailout package worth $8 billion from the International Monetary Fund, one of the largest Russian public energy companies offered to invest $2 billion in Pakistan’s water and power sectors. As of mid-January, Pakistan had not responded to the offer.

As drought in the Himalayan countryside of Nepal stretches into its fifth year, people in rural communities are suffering a food crisis, abandoning their farms and relying heavily on food imports.

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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