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Unprecedented rain soaks historic Pokhran desert.

Three drown in flooding caused by breached dams

Jaipur Pokhran desert -- which shot into international prominence first in 1974 when India conducted its first nuclear test in the desert and then again in May 1998 when the second nuclear test was conducted is submerged in water.

The sandy terrains of the Pokhran field firing range -- the site of the atomic blast and the venue of numerous armament tests and military exercises is flooded as the western Rajasthan's historical small town is witnessing unprecedented rain.

"In Pokhran villages until now the rainfall was recorded at 367mm and after two years the people residing in the Thar desert under tough climatic conditions are facing heavy rains.

Shelter

"In 2008 Pokhran town received 421mm of rainfall which was the highest, but it seems this monsoon the previous record will be broken. On one single day this monsoon Pokhran received 57mm of rain that left the place flooded and people had to take shelter on top of the sand dunes," said Vimal Bhatia, a resident.

Almost flood-like conditions were created after cyclone Phet in June when the town became submerged because of the cyclonic effect. The town has witnessed below average rainfall and poor rainfall in the past led to mass-scale migration.

Due to the heavy downpour a number of dams built by villagers around the nuclear site have been breached causing flooding.

District Collector RN Meena said three people had drowned because of rains so far and all the reservoirs are full.

In historic Jaisalmer, of which Pokhran is a part of, also witnessed heavy rains.

"Pokhran has experienced hot summers with the mercury touching 50C and we felt we were living in an oven, now it's the rain that is causing havoc" said Raghudan Charan, a farmer in Lathi, a village near Pokhran.

According to the district official Meena, the firing range at Pokhran was waterlogged and water accumulated in the lower area of the firing range. Because of heavy rains large numbers of shrubs have started growing in the firing range.

Barmer, the border district along the Indo-Pak border which gets less than average rain recorded more than 368mm rain this monsoon.

According to Gaurav Behl, Barmer district collector, several villages and hamlets in the district which until recently had no drinking water left because of the delayed monsoon were facing a flood-like situation with people fleeing to safety by climbing up high sand dunes because of heavy rains that lashed the western Rajasthan in the last 48 hours.

More wet spells

Kawas, a village under Barmer district which witnessed heavy damage because of floods in 2006 is facing a similar situation again. Kawas and surrounding areas has huge deposit of gypsum which contributes to flood-like situations.

A meteorological department official in Jaipur said more rains are forecast to fall all over the state in the next few days.

The International Research Institute (IRI) at Columbia University in the US has forecast wetter than average conditions for the peninsula during this monsoon. Adjoining Gujarat, too, has been affected by the rain.

Ap archive

Past exercises

Dust clouds rise as an Indian Air Force fighter plane drops cluster bombs during a mock exercise in Pokhran in 2005.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 5, 2010
Words:551
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