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Illustration by Security Management

Monsoon Season Displaces Millions Across India, Nepal, and Bangladesh

Heavy seasonal rainfall has set off widespread flooding in northeast India, displacing more than 2.5 million people and killing more than 80 since May, according to CBS News. Floodwaters have washed away more than 10,000 homes across the state of Assam, and 300 relief camps have been established.

The Assam government said that the Brahmaputra river is running “above danger mark” in 24 of the state’s 33 districts. The river, which flows through Tibet, Bangladesh, and India, has a tendency to flood surrounding villages.

Assam’s famous Kaziranga National Park is largely underwater, and more than 100 animals—including nine of an estimated 2,500 endangered one-horned rhinos—have drowned in the floods. Most of the world’s population of these rhinos live in Kaziranga.

So far, this year’s monsoon rains and flooding have killed more than 200 people and displaced 4 million across India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, while also damaging crops and triggering mudslides. Nepalese government authorities are warning residents along its southern border to remain alert as heavy monsoon rains are expected soon, Reuters reports.

Monsoon season—which usually brings heavy rain and flooding across the region—has been heavier than usual this year; according to the India Meteorological Department, India has received 6 percent more rainfall than normal so far this season, despite deficient precipitation in some of northern India.

Further complicating rescue and relief efforts, countries in the region are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, nearly 1.1 million people have been infected, and 26,816 have died from the disease as of Sunday, according to Reuters.

Traditional flood or natural disaster response is endangered by reduced emergency management capabilities, restrictions on safely housing displaced persons, and curtailed community engagement efforts, said Samantha Kuzma, geospatial associate with World Resources Institute (WRI).

“Right now, we’re even more vulnerable if a flood were to hit; all of our resources are tied up trying to battle this pandemic, and we would be exposed and vulnerable in a whole new way,” she told Security Management. “And as we expect climate change to intensify storms and make rainfall heavier in certain parts of the world, we really need to prepare for [simultaneous crises] like this so we can control those secondary effects and reduce the overall impact of these sorts of disasters.”

Data analyzed by WRI and Aqueduct Floods found that the number of people who will be affected by river flooding will rise from 65 million in 2010 to 132 million in 2030—largely driven by an influx of people, homes, and buildings along rivers without significant increases in flood mitigation infrastructure. The data found that small investments have big payoffs in this area—in India, the data projected, every $1 spent on flood prevention infrastructure may result in $248 in avoided damages.