Drought Management in India

Drought Management in India

Why Drought Management in India?

Drought is a condition where water availability falls below the statistical requirements for a region and lack of water to satisfy the normal needs of agriculture, livestock, industry or human population. In India drought is due to high temporal and spatial variations in rainfall and climatic conditions.Drought declaration is announced when the rainfall is –20% to –59% (early warning), –60% to 99% (drought) and –100% of normal (severe drought) conditions. Around 68% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees.

The main types of drought are as follows:

  1. Meteorological Drought: Reduction in rainfall for a specific period below a specific amount.
  2. Hydrological Drought: Drying up of water sources – both surface and ground water (together or individually)
  3. Soil Moisture Drought: Unavailability of adequate moisture to support the standing crop.
  4. Ecological Drought: Productivity of a natural eco-system falls significantly as a consequence of distress induced environmental damage.

In India, since 60% of the agriculture is still rainfed, meteorological drought is an important cause of drought conditions. Thus, any deficit in monsoon rains is felt to a large extent especially in areas that have large rain variability – leeward side of Western Ghats (Marathwada and Vidarbha) and North-west extremities of the country.


How is Drought man-made?

Though all reasons mentioned above seem to pertain to natural causes, yet drought is said to be a man-made disaster in the present context. This is due to:

  1. Faulty cropping systems that lead to excessive wastage of water like the flooding of fields during rice sowing.
  2. Growing crops that do not suit the agro-climatology of a particular region. India has been divided into several agro-climatic zones and it is recommended that crops that suit that region must be grown. For example, sugarcane in Maharashtra where the interiors face a shortage of water perennially. Also, rice in southern Karnataka and northern Tamil Nadu are other examples.
  3. Increasing urbanization has led to indiscriminate use of water by urban centres. This has led to water being pumped from hundreds of kilometers away leaving the sources dry and deficient in water.
  4. Lack of water storage structures that cause water that falls during the monsoons to just wash away. Also, destruction of natural water storage structures due to encroachment.

Today, this has led to an acute crisis with farmer suicides, loan build-ups and skewed prices in the markets. Also, the poor in the city and peri-urban areas have had to resort to polluted sources of water to meet their needs.

Drought Management in India or Mitigation of Droughts

Drought Management in India

Drought mitigation involves a comprehensive plan that not only covers water availability but its judicious use and re-use along with an overhaul of agricultural systems: The impacts of drought can be reduced through preparedness and mitigation. The components of a drought preparedness and mitigation plan are as follows:

  • Prediction
  • Monitoring
  • Impact assessment
  • Response.
  • Prediction can benefit from climate studies which use coupled ocean/atmosphere models, survey of snow packs, anomalous circulation patterns in the ocean and atmosphere, soil moisture, assimilation of remotely sensed data into numerical prediction models, and knowledge of stored water available for domestic, stock, and irrigation uses.
  • Monitoring exists in countries which use ground-based information such as rainfall, weather, crop conditions and water availability. Satellite observations complement data collected by ground systems. Satellites are necessary for the provision of synoptic, wide-area coverage.
  • Impact assessment is carried out on the basis of land-use type, persistence of stressed conditions, demographics and existing infrastructure, intensity and areal extent, and its effect on agricultural yield, public health, water quantity and quality, and building subsidence.
  • Response includes improved drought monitoring, better water and crop management, augmentation of water supplies with groundwater, increased public awareness and education, intensified watershed and local planning, reduction in water demand, and water conservation.
  • Drought preparedness and mitigation can be accomplished with the following practices: (1) soil and water conservation, and (2) herd management.
  1. Adoption of micro-irrigation techniques by farmers. However, such systems will need to be subsidised to be made competitive for a majority of farmers who are small and marginal farmers.
  2. Stringent application of water harvesting measures not only at the individual level but at community and village level too.
  3. Seechwal model can be implemented especially in acute water deficit areas. This model is currently being extended along the banks of the Ganga
  4. Wastewater recycling facilities in urban and industrial centres to allow for non-drinking uses.
  5. Agricultural practices should focus on more crop, per drop. Government support through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Soil Health Card scheme etc. must be extended to all gram panchayats.
  6. Agro-climatic basis for crop selection should be promoted. This can be done by adjusting MSP by the government.

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