"India then being four-sided in plan, the side which looks to the Orient and that to the South, the Great Sea compasseth... and on the fourth side, turned towards the West, the Indus marks the boundary, the biggest or nearly so of all rivers after the Nile."- Megasthenes, Indike, c 300 B.C
For nearly its entire documented history, the Indian subcontinent has been described after its water bodies. Its earliest name was derived from the Sanskrit word, Sindhu or "river", referring to the Indus River.
The Indus Valley Civilization, named after the river that brought it to life, traded with the western world along this water channel.
From opening doors for trade and commerce to distant lands to shaping the climatic conditions of the subcontinent, the importance of the rivers, the seas and the ocean surrounding the country cannot be overstated.
On the east lies the Bay of Bengal, once known as the “Sea of Kalinga” due to the extensive maritime activity in Kalinga.
On the West lies the Arabian Sea, stretching from the western coast of India to the Arabian Peninsula.
Surrounding the southern half of the subcontinent, where the Arabian sea to the west and the Bay of Bengal to the east merge, is the Indian Ocean. The Ocean covers nearly 19.8% of the water on the Earth's surface, making it the third-largest in the world.
India has a coastline that spans nearly 7500km. The Northwestern section of the Indian Ocean is the Arabian sea, which skirts along the border of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala.
On the west, the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have coastlines on the Bay of Bengal. This proximity to the ocean on both sides of the subcontinent has in large part shaped the weather dynamics of the country.
Monsoons in India are caused by the temperature differences between the land and sea, starting in summer. And one of the major factors behind the recent increase in cyclones and their severity across the Indian Ocean as well as the scanty Southwest Monsoon this year has been due to the Indian Ocean Dipole or IOD.
IOD is essentially the difference of temperature between the eastern (Bay of Bengal) and the western Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea). This temperature difference results in a pressure difference that influences the winds flowing between the eastern and western parts of the Indian Ocean.
The oscillations in this dipole throw the equilibrium required for monsoons out of place and can cause temporary eccentricities in climatic conditions.
Kerala, the southern state on the west coast, received excess rainfall during the Southwest Monsoon in 2018, 2019, and 2020, causing floods and landslides, and affecting thousands of people. However, Kerala received scanty rainfall in 2021, causing water shortage and a lot of anxiety among people.
According to experts, climate change has made Kerala’s rainfall pattern unpredictable. Drying up of rivers and water shortage have affected farmers and everyone alike. This is not a case that is exclusive to Kerala, but one that holds true all around the world. There’s a delicate relationship between the climatic conditions and people’s livelihood, which is now being tossed into disarray due to climate change.