Droughts #52

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'The intensity and frequency of droughts have increased in the last decade'. What are different type of droughts? Do you think there is a link between increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and global warming.

Syllabus: GS 1, 3– Geography, Disaster management, Droughts in India

Why in News?

  • Large parts of Maharashtra and Odisha are reeling under drought

What is drought?

  • It is difficult to provide a precise and universally accepted definition of drought due to its varying characteristics and impacts across different regions such as rainfall patterns, human response and resilience etc. Drought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate and occurs in all climatic regimes and is usually characterized in terms of its spatial extension, intensity and duration. Drought causes economic, environmental and social impacts.
  • A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days.
  • It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region and harm to the local economy.

Classification of droughts in India?

  • Ministry of Agriculture is the nodal Ministry in respect of monitoring and managing drought conditions and droughts are classified into meteorological droughts, hydrological droughts and agricultural droughts.
  • The National Commission on Agriculture classifies droughts as meteorological, agricultural and hydrological based on the concept of its utilization.
  • Meteorological drought is classified based on rainfall deficiency w.r.t. long term average – 25% or less is normal, 26-50% is moderate and more than 50% is severe.
  • Hydrological drought is best defined as deficiencies in surface and sub-surface water supplies leading to a lack of water for normal and specific needs. Such conditions arise even in times of average (or above average) precipitation when increased usage of water diminishes the reserves.
  • Agricultural drought is identified by 4 consecutive weeks of meteorological drought, weekly rainfall is 50 mm from 15/5/ to 15/10, 6 such consecutive weeks rest of the year and crop planted is 80% in kharif season.
  • IMD is the designated agency for providing drought early warning and forecasting.


How a drought is declared?

  • A manual published by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2016 suggests a three-step approach.
  • The first step is to look at two mandatory indicators — rainfall deviation and dry spell.
  • Depending on the extent of deviation, and whether or not there is a dry spell, the manual specifies various situations that may or may not be considered a drought trigger.
  • Second step is to look at four impact indicators — agriculture, vegetation indices based on remote sensing, soil moisture, and hydrology.
  • Each impact can be assessed on the basis of various indices.
  • The States may consider any three of the four types of the Impact Indicators (one from each) for assessment of drought, the intensity of the calamity and make a judgment.
  • If all three chosen indicators are in the ‘severe’ category, it amounts to severe drought; and if two of the three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ class, it amounts to moderate drought.
  • The third step comes in after both previous triggers have been set off.
  • In that event, States will conduct sample survey for ground verification in order to make a final determination of drought. Once a drought is determined, the state government needs to issue a notification specifying the geographical extent.
  • The notification is valid for six months, unless de-notified earlier.
  • In India, around 68% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees.

Government programs and schemes to deal with droughts:

  • In the early 1970s, the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP) and the Desert Development Programme (DDP) were implemented to revive the ecology in hot and cold deserts.
  • The drought in 1987 forced to shift the focus of government to long-term measures such as water shed development.
  • Since 1987, the watershed development approach to drought-proof the country has become important.
  • The DPAP and DDP programmes were redrafted to make watershed development a unit of drought proofing.
  • Other watershed-based programmes were also launched, including the National Watershed Development Programme for Rain-fed Areas (NWDPRA) and the Watershed Development Programme for Shifting Cultivation (WDPSC).
  • It was the 2002 drought that finally prompted policy makers and development practitioners to account for the fact that drought was perpetuated by human-induced factors like neglect of water harvesting capacity.
  • Since then, rainwater harvesting – specifically revival of traditional systems – has been given priority in drought management, particularly under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).

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