This Jaisthya, the second month of high summer, is perhaps the wettest ever if not all across the country, at least in many of its parts. It would be difficult to recall a wetter Jaisthya in Bangladesh, except in its southern parts, in people's living memory. Rather Baishakh was the time when norwesters called 'kalbaishakhi' (fierce storm blowing from the north-western direction) brought rains and hailstones. The preparation of such a storm was indeed an ominous sight to behold! On the entire north-western sky, black clouds would gather so thickly that the day would turn into a night. Sometimes lightning would show into the heart of the clouds. Then the ferocious wind started blowing at a high speed.
With a norwester lashing at everything on its way, first dust, dry leaves and grass, papers and all the light trash used to swirl, toss and bounce everywhere. Huge trees were uprooted, tin and thatched roofs were blown away and houses came down like nine pins. Usually such storms did not last long but some did and they were called monster storms because of the death and destruction they caused across wide swathes. Even the short-lived ones wreaked havoc with crops and poor people's dwelling houses in villages. When norwesters were a dreaded natural phenomenon, at least for children they brought some joy by way of bringing down unripe green mangoes from trees. It was pure bliss to collect the mangoes that came off the branches one after another as the wind volleyed, swayed and played with the trees.
Kalbaishakhis are rare these days. Instead, storms ---rather cyclones --- from the seas make landfalls on South Asia, India and Bangladesh in particular. Cyclones Sidr, Aila and Amphan and lately Yaas are known for battering the coastal areas of both countries. No land storm has been so devastating in recent times.
Is the monsoon, then, shifting and changing its characteristics? Climatologists agree that in South Asia it is undergoing a radical transformation both in terms of schedule and behaviour. Even naked eye can see and perceptive mind can realise that the high summer month of Jaisthya, this year has yielded to rainy days. Quite a few years before 2020 were more or less rainless. If it was a cycle of dry monsoons, it appears to have been overtaken by a wet one. But the prediction is that monsoon will arrive in future much earlier than it used to do before. If this month's rainfall is any indication, it surely convinces one that the monsoon has already set in Bangladesh.
In the southern districts, however, rainfalls were less than in middle and eastern parts of the country. The fact that saline intrusion into the waters of many rivers of Barishal and Khulna divisions has occurred and increased on account of rainlessness is indeed a cause for concern. The southern parts of Bangladesh are likely to become the prime casualty of climate change. The rise of seas may be one reason why saline water has made its inroad into rivers.
Now will this be offset by an earlier monsoon? It is too early to predict this. But about one thing there is little doubt that an earlier monsoon will have far-reaching multiple impacts on the life and livelihoods of the people in this country. The first question that should trouble laymen like me is, will the monsoon in summer kill the transient spring here? Or, the high summer and monsoon will interchange their positions!
If the usual summer no longer exists, many will welcome the prospect without taking into consideration the adverse consequences. For example, the heat is essential for ripening mangoes, the king of fruits. Apart from this, there is a host of flora and fauna that have adjusted to the seasons' cycles for fruition and procreation. All this will be disrupted. Cropping patterns will suffer or have to be changed. Even this will have impacts on human adaptability to weather. A changed monsoon apparently looks welcome but ultimately how it changes the entire cycle of seasons and environment will decide the fate of the people of the Gangetic delta.