Devastating Extreme Weather Events Grip India, Claiming Thousands of Lives and Damaging Croplands

India continues to grapple with a relentless onslaught of extreme weather events, with alarming consequences for human lives and agricultural…

India continues to grapple with a relentless onslaught of extreme weather events, with alarming consequences for human lives and agricultural productivity. According to data from India’s database on weather disasters, a staggering 314 out of the 365 days in 2022 witnessed severe
weather phenomena, resulting in the loss of 3,026 lives and extensive damage to 1.96 million hectares of cropland.

A concerning trend in the frequency of extreme weather events from 2022 to 2023 has been revealed by the India Meteorological Department.

Experts emphasize the erratic nature of these events by pointing out that hailstorms have already surpassed heatwaves as the most frequent occurrence as of 2023. Hailstorms caused substantial destruction throughout 32 states and Union Territories on 58 of the 84 days with
extreme weather events that were reported during this time period.


“There is rising evidence that rising global temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating these events,” explains Avantika Goswami, Programme Manager in the Climate Change
Programme at Centre for Science and Environment, “For example, last year’s  early heatwave was made 30 times more likely due to climate change.”

The central region of India has struggled with an alarming frequency of such events, surpassing all other regions in the country. Out of the 365 days in a year, this region experienced these severe occurrences on a staggering 218 days. Madhya Pradesh saw the most intense weather events, enduring them for 144 days. Tragically, 938 people have died as a result of these catastrophic events and 136,781 hectares of farmland have suffered significant damage.

The winter months of January and February 2022 also experienced a significant number of extreme weather events, spanning 21 states and UTs. Uttar Pradesh, with events reported on 25 days, faced the highest frequency, followed closely by Madhya Pradesh (24 days) and Punjab (15 days). Notably, despite being the third wettest January since 1951, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala recorded rainfall deficits, highlighting the unpredictability of weather patterns.

The monsoon season, spanning June to September, proved to be the most challenging, with all 122 days characterized by extreme weather events across 34 states and UTs. Assam was the hardest hit, facing extreme events on a staggering 95 days, followed by Madhya Pradesh (85 days) and Maharashtra (80 days). Despite the overall monsoon being classified as normal, rainfall
fluctuated between deficit and excess throughout the season. By the season’s end, 188 districts, comprising 27% of the country’s total, received deficit rainfall, with seven districts experiencing large deficit rainfall.

Sengupta expresses concerns about the monsoon’s sudden surge in rainfall and emphasizes the changing nature of the monsoon in India. He notes that it has become extremely erratic, no longer following a uniform pattern, which is leading to damage of crops and affecting human populations.

He brings attention to the changing nature of the monsoon, emphasizing that extreme weather events, once considered rare or once-in-a-lifetime occurrences, are now happening more frequently. This signifies a notable shift in climate patterns, presenting a greater challenge for communities and ecosystems to adapt and cope with the increased frequency of these extreme

There is growing concern over a significant 36% reduction in the budget allocated to states and Union Territories to address natural calamities in the fiscal year 2022-23 compared to the previous year, 2021-22. This reduction in funding raises important questions about the preparedness and availability of resources to effectively respond to and manage the increasing impact of these extreme weather events.

These alarming statistics, published by DownTo Earth for their report; State of India’s Environment in Figures, 2023, paint a stark picture of the immense challenges India faces due to extreme weather events. The loss of thousands of human lives, extensive damage to vast croplands, and unpredictable rainfall patterns underscore the urgent need for action to address the
impacts of climate change and build resilience to mitigate future disasters.

Experts emphasize the importance of incorporating the latest scientific findings, establishing reliable methods to assess losses and damages resulting from these events, and formulating sector-specific preparedness and action plans. She highlights the urgent need to strengthen our
cities, enabling them to withstand various climate impacts, including extreme rainfall, flooding events, and extreme heat.