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As Monsoon Death Toll Climbs Across South Asia, New Maps Show Damage to Crops Could be Severe

This post was written by Niroshini Fernando with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Over 200 people are dead and millions affected due to the recent monsoons across India, Nepal and Bangladesh, causing heavy flooding. The Indian states of Bihar and Assam report the highest number of those affected - over 10 million people.

New satellite maps developed by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), show not only the extent of the inundation but also that crops could be severely damaged in Bihar and other districts, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

The maps are generated using near real-time rainfall estimates (about four hours after observation) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Global Satellite Mapping of Precipitation (GsMAP) provides a global hourly rain rate at a 0.1 x 0.1 degree resolution.

JAXA’s GsMAP satellite images of accumulated rainfall between 7 to 17 July 2019 (in red) across India showing severity of inundation with up to 350mm of accumulated rainfall in Bihar, Assam and Uttara Pradesh. IWMI/ WLE
Satellite data from Sentinel 2 of the European Space Agency taken on 17 July 2019 shows comparative maps of flood inundation (in purple) covering East Champaran District in Bihar. WLE / IWMI

IWMI/WLE analyzed the spatial and temporal distribution of the average daily rainfall to advise the disaster management agencies for emergency response and impact assessment. The maps are currently being used by the Disaster Management Center of Bihar to coordinate response teams and insurance partners.

“With climate-induced weather disasters increasing the vulnerability of smallholders and other marginalized communities, this technology is proving to be essential not just for recovery efforts, but also to increase farmer resilience and their opportunities for recovery,” says Giriraj Amarnath, senior researcher and research group leader: Water Risks and Disasters at IWMI.

The satellite data on crop damage will help smallholders to access relief packages and sufficient crop insurance. IWMI and WLE with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security are currently leading research on how satellite data and climate information can work towards climate risk insurance products for male and female smallholders.