Sunday, 13 August 2017

What Can Rainfall Data of Karnataka Reveal to a Development Sector Professional?


The article begins with analysis of yearly rainfall data of Karnataka. It is observed that Coastal Karnataka gets exceptionally higher rainfall. The suggested reason for higher rains (in Coastal Karnataka) available in literature has been listed. Drawing parallels with rainfall data, it is observed that number of wet days per year and percent of cloud cover during rainy season are also higher for Coastal Karnataka. This region is found to be comparatively rich in forest cover with respect to other parts of the state. Further, an attempt is made to analyze drought-prone areas of Karnataka and pattern of recent drought in 2015. It has been observed that most parts of Coastal Karnataka does not fall under drought-prone area and are least affected during recent drought. Possible reasons for drought other than rainfall has also been briefly touched upon.

In the end, some points are illustrated with facts and figures for development planners of the state of Karnataka to take into consideration while designing development schemes under following headings:-

1)     Possible considerations for Planning of Water Management
a)     PPP Model for Effective Execution
b)     Promotion of Rain Water Harvesting (RWH)    
c)     Use of Adequate and Cost-Effective Technology for Water Management
d)     Further Exploration of Innovative Ways

2)     A few Critical Challenges for Planning of Forestation Initiatives
a)     Forestation in regions with Depleting Ground Water
b)     Strategic Forestation in Coastal Regions to Curb Coastal Erosion

3)     Considerations to Vulnerability of Migrants (Migrating due to Natural Calamities)

 - - - - - - -

Point Wise Illustrations:-

A.    Historically Coastal Karnataka Receives Significantly More Rainfall Than Rest of Karnataka

a.      Karnataka Yearly Rainfall Pattern - Average rainfall received by Karnataka suggests that Karnataka gets good amount of rain during four months of rainy season – JUN to SEP. This is shown in the picture below (data is taken from reference – a)

            (Picture-1: Distribution of Rainfall Across the Year in Karnataka)

b.     The Six Districts Get Significantly More Rainfall - District wise average annual rainfall across districts of Karnataka suggest that six adjoining districts of the state get exceptionally high rainfall (Please refer to following point for list of these districts). The yearly average rainfall of these six districts for last 10 years is 289.1 CM in comparison to state average of 115.2 CM per year. Out of these six districts, the yearly average of top four districts receiving maximum rainfall is 340.5 CM, which is almost thrice the state average (reference – a).

(Picture-2: Map of Karnataka – reference d)

c.      These Six Districts are located in Coastal Region of the state (Karnataka) - These districts are located in coastal belt and are listed as under (in order of highest to lowest yearly rainfall (average) – (refer Picture-2 and Picture-3):-
                                                    i.      Udupi – Average Rainfall of 418.0 CM per Year
                                                  ii.      D.Kannada – Average Rainfall of 391.2 CM per Year
                                                iii.      U.Kannada – Average Rainfall of 288.6 CM per Year
                                                iv.      Kodagu – Average Rainfall of 264.4 CM per Year
                                                  v.      Chickmagalur – Average Rainfall of 190.5 CM per Year
                                                vi.      Shimoga – Average Rainfall of 182.0 CM per Year
The next highest rainfall is received by Hassan district which is a distant 98.9 CM per Year (nearly half of what Shimoga receives) - (reference – a)

(Picture-3: District Wise Rainfall for State of Karnataka – compiled from reference - a)

B.    Research on Possible Reasons for Heavy Rainfall Received by Coastal Region of Karnataka – (reference – b)

a.      Ms Sayli A. Tawde is presently a PhD student in the Centre for Atmospheric & Ocean Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has carried out studies on Mansoon Rainfall on Western Ghats of Karnataka as a part of her M. Tech project under the supervision of Ms. Charu Singh, a scientist at Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Department, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, ISRO, Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The studies highlights are several possible reasons for excessive rainfall received in Western Ghats of Karnataka. These are:-

                                                    i.     First, the mountain topography in Karnataka is broader than the narrow topography of the Ghats in Maharashtra. Due to the greater width of the mountains, the rain bearing winds have to necessarily travel a longer distance and have more time for the drops to coalesce and precipitate as rainfall, resulting in higher rainfall. In contrast, the narrow width of the Ghats in Maharashtra allows the rain-bearing wind to cross over to the leeward side rapidly before precipitation can occur. As for Kerala, the Ghats there are in the form of isolated mountains, where the rain-bearing winds can easily cross over to the leeward side through the gaps in between without precipitation occurring.

                                                  ii.     Second, the slope of the mountain has a direct bearing on the possibility of precipitation. This is borne out by the Ghats of Karnataka where the mountains are gently sloping, compared to the steep slopes of the Ghats in Maharashtra and Kerala. The air parcel will retain its energy and speed for a longer time when the slope is gradual. This will provide sufficient vertical motion to cloud droplets to grow by collision–coalescence process and hence form precipitation.

                                                iii.     Third, the gentle slope provides a greater area for sunlight absorption and heating leading to greater convection when compared with an abrupt slope i.e. less Ghat area such as that of the Maharashtra and Kerala Ghats.

                                                iv.     Fourth, the continuous mountain range presents a greater barrier to rain-bearing winds than a range comprising isolated mountains with gaps in between where the winds can easily pass to the leeward side. Unlike in the case of Kerala, the Ghats in Maharashtra and Karnataka are continuous.

C.    Historically, The Coastal Region of Karnataka also has greater Percentage of Cloud Cover & more Number of Wet Days in a Year – (reference – e)

a.     Water Portal of MET has collated district wise rainfall related data for more than one hundred years. (

b.     The data for number of Wet Days and percentage Cloud Cover are not available for all the six districts that have been found to be receiving significantly above average rainfall in Karnataka. However, data from year 1901 to 2002 for Chikmagalur, Kodagu and Shimoga suggests that wet day frequency are quite high during rainy season and for three months during the year wet days are more than 15 days a month. Similarly, Cloud Cover in these three districts is found to be around or above 50% for four to five months during a year.

D.    However, Karnataka has vast area which has been termed Drought Prone (Mostly falling in Non-Coastal Areas of the State) – (reference – j)

a.      The CWC after detailed study has identified 14 districts in Karnataka as ‘droughtprone’. According to this study an area of 1,52,163 sq.kms. which represents 80 per cent of the total area of the State is drought-prone.

b.     Area of Bijapur, Dharwad, Hubli and Bagalkot are always the most affected when there is a drought in northern part of Karnataka.

c.      After studying decades of rainfall pattern and other factors the drought-prone districts of Karnataka are given in the table below (reference -

(Picture-4: Drought-Prone Districts of Karnataka)

E.     Consistent Deficiency of Rainfall and Recent Drought in Karnataka (2015)

a.      Meteorological drought is classified based on rainfall deficiency w.r.t. long term average – 25% or less is normal, 26-50% is moderate and more than 50% is severe.

b.     Karnataka is witnessing drought for the third successive year; rainfall has been deficient since 2012-13. 

c.      Drought in 2015 – The drought in 2015 affected 135 Talukas in 27 districts of Karnataka. In reference to the map below, the pattern suggests that the coastal region of Karnataka are the least affected.

(Picture – 5: Drought Affected Talukas for Drought in 2015 – reference f)

d.     It has been reported that following issues have surfaced as a result of recent droughts due to deficiency of rainfall in Karnataka (Reference - g) :-
                                                    i.     Drinking Water Crisis
                                                  ii.     Water levels in reservoirs are reaching at alarming levels
                                                iii.     Fodder Shortage
                                                iv.     Unemployment and Migration
                                                  v.     Power crisis due to unreliable hydropower 

e.      Other than deficiency of rainfall, possible reasons for the severe drought are as under (Reference - i) :-

                                                    i.     Extinction of Water Bodies – Water bodies (natural or man-made) are regarded as direct or indirect life supporting system for millions of living beings, significant source of water and moderate the hydrological extreme events like (say) drought. In the state of Karnataka about 35% of wetland are threatened due to sedimentation, 43% are subject to encroachments and 22% are due to rampant growth of exotic weeds.  

                                                  ii.     Depleting Ground Water - Consistently depleting groundwater due to increase in population and rapid urbanization has been aggravated due to farmers switching from traditional crops to cash crops (like sugarcane and cotton).

                                                iii.     Failure of Rainwater Harvesting – Efforts to engage public with Rainwater Harvesting by bringing suitable legal framework and by generating awareness did not seem to have succeeded. The suggested causes are:-
1.     inadequate financial assistance,
2.     long winded procedures and
3.     poor maintenance of structures once they are built

                                                iv.     Depleting Forest Cover – "Among the six states (1920-2013), historical loss of forest area was very high in Western Ghats of Kerala with forest cover loss of 62.7 percent of area, followed by 34.9 percent in Gujarat, 27.1 percent in Karnataka, 26.3 percent in Goa, 21.6 percent in Maharashtra and 15.2 percent in Tamil Nadu," reveals the research paper which has been published in the "Journal of Earth System Science" of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

F.     Points Worth Considering for Development Planners

a.      Consideration for Planning of Water Management – Some experts believe that more sensible water management is required for effectively working towards water crisis.  

                                                    i.     PPP Model for Effective Execution - Despite all inherent problems in implementation of PPP projects under Indian conditions, one must accept that this is one of the most effective ways with a great potential to bring difference to infrastructural development. There has been many success stories too and there is a prospect to learn from past experiences and revive PPP implementation in India. (reference – l)

In the recent past, Kerala chose to respond to drought in 2013 with PPP arrangement. Learnings from such initiatives can be used for better implementation of new PPP implementations.

Water bodies can be rejuvenated under PPP in drought prone areas of Karnataka. Tanks and lakes play an important role in helping irrigation as well as recharging ground water in the surrounding areas. A detailed feasibility study on use of PPP for rejuvenation of lakes has been done by Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) Limited. In this study, it has been suggested that protests against PPP for rejuvenation of lakes is due to apprehensions issues related to commercialization of lakes. However, conservation of lakes under private participation could be undertaken by framing a suitable guidelines and policies for private participation which is not purely commercial in nature and the guidelines should provide for environmental protection, ecological sensitivity issues, abatement of pollution and more so ever conservation of lakes for the public purpose by the private parties. Further, it has been recommended that development of Lake Fronts be included within the scope of the project to make such projects a viable business proposition for private partners.

                                                  ii.     Promotion of Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) – In brief is defined as the process of concentrating rainfall as runoff from the larger area for use of smaller target area. Even though, implementation of RWH in India has been full of challenges, it may be noted that this is one of the established strategies for reducing pressure on water demand (usually in regions with scarce supply of water with reasonably good rain). Tamil Nadu is hailed for successful implementation of RWH initiative through persistent efforts over a decade. It is believed that Public Participation was critical factor for success of RWH. Door to Door campaign on RWH was done for long period of time with active participation of SHGs (Self Help Groups) and NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) to sensitize huge population with wide diversity.   

One of the most important underlying values in rainwater harvesting is that it is a benign technology (Bachelor et al. 2002) and cannot create undesirable consequences. Water harvesting initiatives are driven by firm beliefs and assumptions, some of which are:

1.     that there is a huge amount of monsoon flow, which remains un-captured and eventually ends up in the natural sinks
2.     that local water needs are too small and as such exogenous water is not needed;
3.     that local water harvesting systems are always small and, therefore, are cost-effective;
4.     since the economic, social and environmental values of water are very high in regions hit by water shortages, water harvesting interventions are viable, supported by the assumption that cost- effective alternatives that can bring in the same amount of water, do not exist;
5.     incremental structures lead to incremental benefits; and
6.     being small with low water storage and diversion capacities, they do not pose negative consequences for downstream uses.

In relation to Rain Water Harvesting, recent studies by The Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore insists on Awareness Creation Initiatives and on Strengthening the Process of Implementation for successful implementation of RWH.

However, a group of experts are totally averse to the idea of RWH and they do not consider Water Harvesting or Artificial Recharge in Naturally Water-Scarce Regions of India an economically viable option. The apprehensions raised by such experts must also be taken into account while designing a program on RWH. 

Following points indicate that promotion of RWH in Karnataka may be preferred in Coastal and Southern regions for optimal gains (however, to conclude on this indicative argument or an initial idea, an expert opinion from recognized body must be taken with due consideration to numerous other aspects).  

1.     The pattern of rainfall in Coastal Karnataka (high) and North of Karnataka (low). Regions with lower mean annual rainfall experience higher variability and vise versa (Pisharoty 1990). Hence, in regions with lower mean annual rainfalls, rainwater harvesting as a dependable source of water is likely to be low. Further, runoff harvesting, rainfall has to exceed a threshold to generate runoff. Moreover, smaller magnitude of rainfall usually means fewer rainy days, which also means longer dry spells and thus greater losses from evaporation for the same region. (“Rainwater Harvesting in the Water-scarce Regions of India: Potential and Pitfalls”, M. D. Kumar, A. Patel and O.P. Singh)

2.     The picture below taken from "Rainwater Harvesting in the Water-scarce Regions of India: Potential and Pitfalls" taken from paper by M. D. Kumar, A. Patel and O.P. Singh suggests that Northern Karnataka has greater annual evaporation rates in comparison coastal Karnataka (least annual evaporation in the state)

(Picture-6: Annual Evaporation Rate)
High evaporation during the rainy season means losses from surface storage structures. It also means a faster rate of soil moisture depletion through both evaporation from barren soils and evapotranspiration, which increase the rate and quantum of soil infiltration. This reduces the generation potential of runoff. Thus, low evaporation is favorable for RWH.

                                                iii.     Use of Adequate and Cost-Effective Technology for Water Management – Incremental adaption of efficient and effective technology for Water Management may result in facilitating better utilization of water. Systematic integration of advanced hydrologic monitoring systems, data analytic systems and other similar systems have capability to improve overall management of water resources.

                                                iv.     Further Exploration of Innovative Ways – Exploration of other possibilities for efficient Water Management be conducted on regular basis. A couple of the recently suggested explorations by experts and planners are a) National Water Development Agency (NWDA) working for strategic interlinking of rivers of the country and b) Supplemental Irrigation is another option suggested by experts. 

Recently, Government of India has come up with the Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill, 2015 that seeks to establish setting up of a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and also a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund. Therefore, in near future a focused efforts towards Afforestation is expected. And as stated above, in the period 1920 – 2013, Karnataka has lost 27.1 percent of its forest cover. Therefore, afforestation will be on priority (for the state).

The following Forest Cover map taken from Forest Survey of India again suggests that coastal Karnataka has comparatively rich forest cover.

(Picture-7: Forest Cover in Karnataka)

A few of the challenges for planners for Forestation Initiative are as under:-

i.       Forestation in regions with Depleting Ground Water - One of the challenge will be forestation efforts in those part of Karnataka, which are drought-prone and which have depleting ground water. Forestation (Afforestation or Reforestation) will have risk of further depletion of ground water. Technical approaches—such as water diversion, artificial groundwater recharge and efficient irrigation—have failed to balance regional groundwater budgets. They need to be complemented by more comprehensive strategies that are adapted to the specific social, economic, political and environmental settings of each region. This needs inclusive and comprehensive efforts especially in the above mentioned drought-prone regions of Karnataka.

ii. Strategic Forestation in Coastal Regions to Curb Coastal Erosion
Coastal erosion is common phrase referring to the loss of subaerial landmass into a sea or lake due to natural processes such as waves, winds and tides, or even due to human interference.
In Karnataka, about 50% of area under coastal zone is subjected to moderate soil erosion and 6% of the area to severe soil erosion.
Synchronizing forestation with efforts to curb coastal erosion will need detailed survey and strategic site selection. Thus, there will be good possibility that forestation in coastal regions may be support efforts to curb Coastal Erosion. Coastal erosion and accretion are natural processes; however, they may become a problem when exacerbated by human activities or natural disasters. They are widespread in the coastal zone of Asia and other countries in the Indian Ocean owing to a combination of various natural forces, population growth and unmanaged economic development along the coast, within river catchments and offshore.

A.    There is evidence that they provide some coastal protection and their clearance has increased the vulnerability of coasts to erosion. Based on scientific findings, the presence of vegetation in coastal areas will improve slope stability, consolidate sediment and diminish the amount of wave energy moving onshore, therefore protecting the shoreline from erosion.
B.    Increased interest in soft options (in this case the use of coastal forest and trees) for coastal protection is becoming predominant and is in line with advanced knowledge on coastal processes and the natural protective function of the coastal system. This is because hard options are mostly satisfactory in the short term, while soft options are effective in medium to long-term perspectives (five to ten years).
C.    A combination of hard and soft solutions is sometimes necessary to improve the efficiency of the options and to provide an environmentally and economically acceptable coastal protection system.

c.      Considerations to Vulnerability of Migrants (Migrating due to Natural Calamities) – Understanding patterns and reasons of migration is helpful for development planners not only in estimation of future population for distribution of resources but also to understand many inter-related socio-economic aspects associated with migration. In the following data analysis, reasons for migration data are based on the concept of place of last residence and it useful to understand the motivational factors behind movement of people. Some important findings on analysis of 2001 census data is as under:-

1.     About 30.62 percent of the total population of the state is considered as migrants in 2001 census.

2.     Employment and movement because of the displacements of families have been major cause of movement among male migrants; marriage and displacement of families were the most important reasons for female migration.

3.     The proportion of migrants moved due to employment related reasons, increases with the increasing distance. Where as proportion of migrants moving due to marriage decline remarkably with the distance.

4.     The highest proportion of in-migrant population was found in the district of Bangalore whereas Kodagu has the lowest in the period from 1971 to 2001.

5.     The percentage of total migrants to total population in Karnataka from 1971 to 2001 has been slightly higher than in India as a whole, percentage of male migrants also is much higher than in India, but female migrants are fewer in Karnataka compared to India.

(Picture-8: District-Wise In-Migration in Karnataka – 2001 Census Data, Reference - q)

6.     The general pattern that can be observed in the above picture suggests preference of coastal districts of Karnataka by migrating population.

With coastal regions of Karnataka least affected by recent drought, there is a possibility that within the state, there could be increase in migrations influx from drought-hit districts towards coastal districts. Development planners must try to anticipate such migrations and try to support such migrants relocating due extreme circumstances for mere survival. This drought in particular may or may not be due to climate change but similar situation may arise die to natural calamities related to climate change. Climate change will likely increase migration volume, exacerbating existing problems in cities. Given that China and India are among the most vulnerable to climate change and climate-induced migration, this additional volume will likely increase the existing burden on cities.

It may be noted that lack of formal employment limits migrants’ ability to access financial services, earn fair wages, and participate in labor rights movements. At times, in a country as populous and diverse as India, language barriers and cultural differences hinders social integration of migrant population. In Karnataka itself around 66% people are Kannada speakers. Other popular languages are Tamil, Urdu and Telgu. It is observed that many times NGOs play important role in protecting migrant workers from employer exploitation, providing information regarding access to public services, and gathering migration data in Indian cities. However, for such issues, development planners may try to design programs having inter-weaving coordinated efforts by different actors (like (say) cultural and social leadership or political leadership).

G.   References:-

a.       Rainfall Data Reference

b.      Why Western Ghats in Karnataka receive more monsoon rainfall?

c.       Data on District Wise Yearly Rainy Days (Normal and Actual in 2014)

d.      Map of Karnataka

e.       MET Data for District Wise Rainfall

f.       Karnataka – 2015 Drought

g.       Problems in Drought hit Karnataka

h.      Eco-Efficient Urban Water Management

i.        Possible Reasons for Recent Drought in Karnataka

j.        Drought Prone Areas in Karnataka

k.      PPP Model for Water Management

l.        PPP Model in India

m.     Technology in Water Management

n.      Rain Water Harvesting

o.      Forestation & Soil Erosion

p.      Coastal Erosion

q.      Migration

r.     Blog-Post Cover Picture (Free Downloaded from)
                                                     i. (



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