Drought (Disaster Management)

Drought (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Drought (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Drought?

Drought (Disaster Management)

Droughts refer to a severe shortfall in water availability, mainly, but not exclusively, due to deficiency of rains, affecting agriculture, drinking water supply and industry. 

India’s most severe meteorological droughts were recorded in 1876, 1899, 1918, 1965, and 2000.

Drought Prone Areas in India

How is Drought declared?

It is the State’s Prerogative to declare Drought in any area

  1. Meteorological Drought: Seasonal rainfall over the area is less than 75% of its long-term average value. 
  2. Agricultural Drought: If 20% or more area of the state is affected

Peculiarity of Droughts in India

Droughts in India have their peculiarity. The annual average rainfall in India is approximately 1150 mm, a level unmatched by any other nation. Despite this abundant rainfall, about 68% of India is susceptible to drought to varying extents.

How drought is different than other disasters?

  • Onset is slow, giving adequate warning.  
  • Impacts a large area
  • The duration of the disaster is much longer. Hence, relief efforts have to be sustained over a long period.
  • It remains a rural phenomenon, except that very severe drought may impact the urban water supply.  

This does not hold true of other natural disasters. Hence, the management of drought differs significantly from other disasters.

Reasons of Drought

It is said that ‘Rains fall from the sky, but the drought is “made” on the ground,’ i.e. Droughts are manmade.

  • Faulty Water Management: Regions which don’t have good water management suffer from drought. For example, in 2015-16, Marathwada received 900 mm & Vidarbha received 1,000 mm of rain. Compare this with Rajasthan, which receives 400 mm & is not facing drought. 
  • Faulty Agriculture Policy: Growing water-intensive crops exacerbates water scarcity. For example, Marathwada cultivates sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop (Main culprits: Faulty Agro Practices (growing Sugarcane) & faulty water management practices)
  • No Irrigation Facilities: 60% of India’s cultivated land is rainfed with no irrigation facilities. Such regions become vulnerable to minor variations in rainfall.  
  • Faulty Irrigation practices: Most farmers in India use the Flooding Technique of irrigation, which is highly inefficient. India uses 4-5X more water per unit crop compared to China & Brazil.
  • Climatic Phenomenon: Sometimes, Climatic phenomena are also the cause of drought. For example, years when El Nino was prominent resulted in Drought.  
  • Poor Water Conservation Practices: Inadequate water conservation practices contribute to scarcity.

India must learn from arid Israel  

Preparing to face Droughts

  • Scrap Water Subsidies: Eliminate free electricity and canal water subsidies to discourage wasteful water consumption.
  • Water Harvesting & Management: Promote widespread adoption of water harvesting techniques to conserve rainwater.
  • Recalibrating Agriculture Policy: Use Minimum Support Prices (MSP) & other policies to nudge farmers towards pulses, maize, barley, etc. 
  • Make Rivers Perennial: Implement large-scale dam projects to create reservoirs for water storage.
  • Update Famine Codes (2nd ARC): Famine codes have not been updated for decades. The government should take steps to update them using new technology like satellite imagery, as suggested by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission.
  • Preparing NDRF: Provide specialized training to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to handle the unique challenges posed by droughts.
  • Modernization of Drought Forecast & Early Warning Systems