Drought: A Detailed Analysis [Incidents, Challenges And Management]


Drought is a natural hazard that differs from other hazards since it has a slow onset,
evolves over months or even years, affects a large spatial extent, and cause little
structural damage. Its onset and end and severity are often difficult to determine. Like
other hazards, the impacts of drought span economic, environmental and social sectors
and can be reduced through mitigation and preparedness.
Because droughts are a normal part of climate variability for virtually all regions, it is
important to develop plans to deal with these extended periods of water shortage in a
timely, systematic manner as they evolve. Experience has shown that the democratic
from of governance has handled droughts more efficiently than others, as demonstrated
by the situation in India before and after independence.
Drought in India occurs in areas with high as well as regions with meager rainfall. Water
scarcity conditions in the Himalayan region are also not uncommon. Drought is no longer
mere scarcity or the absence of rainfall, but related to inefficient water resource
management. Requirement of over 80-90 % of the drinking water and over 50 % for
irrigation is met from groundwater. The control of this resource is with the owner of land.
Water is being over-exploited and not harvested.


 Analysis of incidence of droughts over the last two centuries in India does not show
any increase in the incidence of droughts in recent years. However, their severity
appears to have increased.
 India in 2002 experienced its worst drought in 20 years.
 However, the probability of drought in India varies from once in 2 years in Western
Rajasthan to once in 15 years in Assam.
 After two consecutive years of weak monsoons, a quarter of India’s population,
spread across 10 states, had been reeling from severe water shortage in 2016.
 Drought conditions in Maharashtra were so severe that the government decided to
run water trains to provide water to drought-hit regions, especially Marathwada.
 Jaldoot, commissioned by the railway ministry in collaboration with the Maharashtra
government, transported half a million litres of water on each of its trips from Miraj in
Sangli district.
 Maharashtra along with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh,
Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal all declared a drought in 2015.


 The National Commission on Agriculture in India classified three types of drought:
meteorological, agricultural and hydrological.
 Meteorological drought is defined as a situation when there is significant decrease
from normal precipitation over an area (i.e. more than 10 %).Meteorological drought
is classified into three groups:
 Normal – If rainfall deficiency with respect to long term average is 25% or less
 Moderate – If rainfall deficiency with respect to long term average is 26 to 30%
 Severe – If rainfall deficiency with respect to long term average is more than 50%
 Hydrological drought results from prolonged meteorological drought resulting in
depletion of surface and sub-surface water resources.
 Agricultural drought is a situation when soil moisture and rainfall are inadequate to
support healthy crop growth.
 Drought is also classified on the basis of time of onset as early season, mid-season
and late season.
 The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) recognizes
1. A drought week- when rainfall in a week is less than half of its normal amount,
2. An agricultural drought- when four drought weeks occur consecutively during
mid-June to September
3. A seasonal drought- when seasonal rainfall is deficient by more than the
standard deviations from the normal
4. A drought year- when annual rainfall is deficient by 20 % of normal or more
5. Severe drought year- when annual rainfall is deficient by 25-40% of normal or


The four indicators viz., rainfall deficiency, the extent of area sown, normalized
difference vegetation index and moisture adequacy index are usually applied in
combination for drought declaration. The information on these indicators is available at
the level of Taluka / Tehsil / Block. Drought may be declared by the State Government at
these levels.

According to the Drought Management Manual brought out in 2009, a drought is
assessed on five parameters:
1. Availability of drinking water
2. Availability of irrigation water
3. Availability of fodder
4. Availability of food grains
5. Energy sector requirement


Common causes for drought in India are:
1. Scarcity of rainfall.
2. Lack of irrigation facilities to supplement the need for water during the period of
inadequate monsoon.
3. Lack of properly developed Rain-water harvesting methods
4. Lack of proper planning to deal with the situation.
5. Widespread deforestation and cutting of trees has reduced the ability of soil to hold
water. Lack of underground water is a major cause for droughts.

Effects of Drought : Like floods, drought is a grave natural calamity that affects Indian life, its agriculture,
industry, and economy. Drought has varying degrees of economic, environmental and
social impact. These are:
 Agricultural losses affect farmer’s income, which increases the rate of suicide among
 Wells, tanks and canals get dried and even the cattle die without water.
 Shortage of drinking water supplies
 food insecurity, fodder deficit
 distress sale of animals
 Lowering of soil moisture and ground water table
 Poverty and squalor become their inseparable companions.
 Industry suffers a setback due to the scarcity of raw materials produced by
agriculture. This combined with the demand of increased wages by the workers, puts
the industrialists on the horns of a dilemma and some industries face closure.


 Disaster management emphasizes preparedness,mitigation and improved Early
Warning System over emergency response and relief assistance. A drought
management strategy consists of the components as shown in following figure:
 The Union Ministry of Agriculture is the nodal ministry in respect of monitoring and
managing drought conditions.
 In the last few years, India has shifted its focus from relief centric to the present
drought management strategy which involves institutional mechanisms, extending
relief through employment generation and social welfare practices, community
participation and operation of Early Warning System (EWS).
 Institutional mechanism:
 There is a Crop Weather Watch Group (CWWG) representing concerned Central
Ministries/Departments under Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) which
meets on regular basis to take stock of rainfall, weather forecast, progress of sowing,
crop health, level of water in the major water reservoirs in the country, etc.
 The findings of CWWG and India Meteorological Department reports are also
discussed by Secretary (A&C) with the Senior Officers and the requirements for
agricultural and allied sector are assessed and appropriate actions taken by the
Central Government.
 The State Governments are also advised suitably and their efforts are supplemented
from the Central resources, whenever the situation warrants for immediate
intervention for mitigating the hardships of agricultural sector
 The Crisis Management Group on drought headed by the Central Drought Relief
Commissioner reviews situation with the representatives of all the Line Departments,
as and when warranted. .
 A Crisis Management Plan is released annually to guide and formulate the
Contingency Plan for all the sectors linked with the impact of drought to mitigate the
impact of drought situation. State Governments are also advised to prepare district           wise contingency plans accordingly.
 In case of severe drought situation in the country, the National Crisis Management
Committee (NCMC) under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary also reviews the
situation and takes necessary decisions to mitigate the drought situation.
 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Forceare
constituted to provide immediate drought relief to the affected people.
 The Drought Management Group was constituted to deal with the situation. The
National Disaster Management Cell monitors the drought situation in different states
and National Calamity Contingency Fund from the government deals with calamities
of severe nature.
 Research Institutes like ICRISAT, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Indian
council of Forestry Research and Training are involved in draught management.
 Different programmes to combat drought like situation: To increase the
preparedness as well as to mitigate the impact, Government has launched various
schemes. These are:
 National Agricultural Insurance Scheme in 1999 and Weather Based Crop Insurance
scheme in 2007 was launched to protect the income of farmers in drought like
 Drought Prone Area Development Programme and Desert Development programme
 Watershed development programme
 National Food Security Mission
 National Horticulture mission
 Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana
 National mission on micro-irrigation
 National Mission for Green India to improve quality of forests
 National Water Policy addresses the issues like the water scarcity, inequities in its
distribution and lack of planning, management and use of water resources.
 Extending Relief: Drought Management Manualsets out four important measures
that a State government should take at the time of a drought, with the Union
government’s help.

1. It should use the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
(MGNREGS) to provide immediate employment to drought-affected people.
2. The public distribution mechanism should be strengthened to provide food and
fodder as a measure to sustain the rural economy.
3. The government should initiate actions to recharge the groundwater table by building
check dams and providing pipeline water and other irrigation facilities.
4. The government should either waive off or defer farmer loans and arrange for crop
loss compensation.
 Drought Early Warning Systems: Drought forecasting and drought monitoring are
two components of Drought Early Warning System. Indian Meteorological
Department (IMD) along with National Centre for Medium Range Weather
Forecasting offer support for early warning and drought preparedness.
 Community Participation: To increase the effectiveness of government efforts
Gram Sabha and local bodies are included in recommending, sanctioning and
monitoring of relief works.


 Unsustainable land and water management practices arethe main culprits of drought
intensification. No emphasis in given on rain water harvesting during building
 In many situations,drought assistance or relief measures provided by governments
and donor agencies exacerbate the societal vulnerability to drought and also move
societies away from their traditional wisdom and pro-active risk management
approach, making people more dependent on externalities.
 All contemporary knowledge, experience and information are not taken on board.
 Multiplicity of agencies further creates confusion and reduces effectiveness.
 The evolution and practice of standard procedures for declaration of drought
including the time of declaration is not homogeneous and the gravity of the risk and
the vulnerability of various States are not duly understood.
 Global and National best practices are yet to be integrated into the droght
management policy.


 The word ‘drought’ indicates scarcity of water for ecosystems,land and human use,
resulting in failing crops,livestock, livelihoods and human health.
 Drought is a complex and least understood natural disaster, the impacts of which
often depend upon the nature of socio-environmental background in the region, and
affects more people than any other disaster.
 The world is witnessing a paradigm shift in disaster management, i.e. ‘to ecosystem
approach in climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.
 Implications of global climate-change impacts coupled with local
environmental modifications (land use, geomorphological changes, natural resource
degradation) need to be assessed with the application of strategic environmental
 Suitable models of anticipatory environmental impact assessment can be developed
further for long-term drought risk management.
 While drought management integration with programmes of forestry, watershed,
public health, pollution control, wetland conservation, and bio-village concept are
recognized now, linkages with the management of epidemics, forest fire and pest,
environmental health,power generation, and socio-political conflict, including risk of
terrorism and war-related disasters still need to be institutionalized.
 It is also important to recognize the issues of ‘urban drought’ and ‘water drinking
industries’while developing the drought management framework.


4 thoughts on “Drought: A Detailed Analysis [Incidents, Challenges And Management]

  1. Part of the Maharashtra problem was that the farmers were asked to change the crops they were growing for generations and which required very less amount of water to sugarcane which needs large amount of water.
    All went well till rains were good but with insufficient rains the crops failed. The farmers could never recover from this.
    All this happened because some politicians owned sugar mills in that region.

    Liked by 1 person


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