Erratic weather, thunderstorms batter UP, Rajasthan: Experts estimate losses in both states worth over Rs 500 crore

Saurabh Sharma | May 19, 2018 | 4 min read


Lucknow: Kumari Kamini, a 17-year-old resident of Farauli village in Etah district, has left her school and is looking for small jobs to earn her livelihood. She is now responsible for her two younger sisters and a brother. Her parents died after after a wall collapsed on them during the thunderstorm on May 13. The children have been assured of a compensation by the government of Uttar Pradesh.

Though discharged from the government-run hospital, Kamini has been advised strict bed rest for ten days. Covered in bandages, she stands with the help of a stick to make a meal for her siblings. “My elder sister and her husband are helping me with whatever they can do. I have lost my parents and everything in the thunderstorm, and I know that I will have to start working for my siblings. Otherwise they will die of hunger," she says.

Three spells of thunderstorm wreaked havoc in various parts of India until May 15. In wake of the alert sounded by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), respective district magistrates ordered closing of schools and colleges. Uttar Pradesh, with 141 deaths, and Rajasthan, with 40 deaths, were the worst affected. Compensations have been promised, but with IMD officials sounding a fresh thunderstorm warning for the national capital region on Saturday, people are keeping their fingers crossed. Thunderstorm accompanied with heavy rain killed three more people in Uttar Pradesh's Firozabad on Saturday.

JP Gupta, director of the Uttar Pradesh unit of IMD, says, “There was a western disturbance over the state along with cyclonic circulation which resulted in the thunderstorm. It was the cyclonic circulation due to which the speed of winds increased and it turned out into a killer thunderstorm. Otherwise, storms, dust storms or thunderstorms keep occurring in summers due to the low air pressure.”

In Uttar Pradesh, mango cultivation is undertaken in an area of around 2.5 lakh hectares in Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Pratapgarh, Faizabad, Moradabad, Meerut, Unnao, Gorakhpur, Basti, Mathura and Saharanpur. Kaleem Ullah Khan, a Padma Shri recipient who’s famously known as 'Mango Man'  for his accomplishments in breeding the fruit, says the mango belt of Uttar Pradesh has already lost a big share of the crops in the thunderstorms.

“We were happy with the soaring mercury up until February and March but a big share of Kairi, Amiya (raw mangoes) has come down due to the thunderstorm. Farmers are going to suffer losses, and people will suffer because the rate of mangoes will definitely go high due to the low produce,” he says. Khan further informs that farmers from western Uttar Pradesh have suffered the most and have lost more than 60% of their crops.

GS Nagralaya, chief of IMD’s Rajasthan unit, says, “We can issue an alert 24 hours before the storm, but the intensity of the storm can only be predicted 2 hours before it takes place. The increase in temperature by 0.3 degrees has led to an increase in moisture from the Arabian sea, which caused the thunderstorm.”

He says contingency funds have been released to the respective district administration in Rajasthan. Nagralaya also informs that a compensation of Rs 4 lakh will be given to family members of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh to those sustaining 60% injuries and Rs 60,000 to those with 40-50% injuries. In UP, the kin of the deceased will be given Rs 2 lakh and those injured have been promised Rs 50,000.

Arvind Mohan, a Lucknow-based economist, estimates the losses in both Rajasthan and UP to be no less than Rs 500 crores. “I have read the reports of damage to life, damage to property and damage to crops in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. All I can say that the loss is no less than Rs 500 crores.” Mohan says he isn’t taking into account the Varanasi flyover collapse, which has been attributed by officials to the thunderstorm. But he warns that the losses could be even bigger.

Despite suffering in the previous spell of thunderstorms, states have not communicated a plan to reduce damage if the situation arises again. The Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner’s office dodged the question by saying how can anyone know where lightning may strike or where walls will collapse. Officials in Rajasthan, however, said would try their best to relocate people when warned of another storm. “This can happen only with the support of people, which we expect," said an official.

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