Drought Management in India

The article explores the definition, causes, impact and the various mechanisms involved in drought managment in India.

Created On: Dec 23, 2015 18:58 ISTModified On: Dec 23, 2015 16:02 IST

Drought is a condition where water availability falls below the statistical requirements for a region. In india due to high temporal and spatial variations in rainfall and climatic conditions,droughts are experienced almost every year in varying intensities.

Drought declaration is announced when the rainfall is –20% to –59% (early warning), –60% to 99% (drought) and –1005 of normal (severe drought) conditions. Around 68% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees. 35% which receives rainfall between 750 mm and 1125 mm is considered drought prone while 33% receiving less than 750 mm is chronically drought prone.

Classification of Droughts

Droughts are classified into meteorological droughts, hydrological droughts and agricultural droughts

Meteorological drought is classified based on rainfall deficiency with respect to long term average – 25% or less is normal, 26-50% is moderate and more than 50% is severe.

Hydrological drought occurs when water level in surface and sub surface falls leading to a lack of water for normal and specific needs.

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.

Causes of drought

• Climate change like variability in the volume and pattern of rainfall from the SW monsoon are primarily responsible for droughts in India. Further, El Niño phase of the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) too has impacted droughts in India.
• Land-use changes, improper agricultural practice and drainage issues. All these reduce the water retention capacity of the soil.
•  Natural resource degradation, poor water management, deforestation have aggravated drought occurrences and vulnerability.

Impact of drought

Drought has varying degrees of economic, environmental and social impact

Agricultural losses due to drought impact income and purchasing power of farmers rendering them unemployed. The 2002 drought, one of the severest in India, affected 56 per cent of its geographical area, the livelihoods of 300 million people and 150 million cattle in 18 states.

Shortage of drinking water supplies and food insecurity, fodder deficit, distress sale of animals lowering of soil moisture and ground water table, malnutrition, starvation, etc are the other consequences.

Regions of Rajasthan, Bundelkhand, Karnataka and Orissa are typical examples of drought-related deprivation and resultant conflicts, whereas drought in states like Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, etc. are the result of improper agriculture practices and poor water management.

Drought management in India

The Union Ministry of Agriculture is the nodal Ministry in respect of monitoring and managing drought conditions.

Over the years, India’s  drought management strategies have contributed to overall developement . for example, the drought of 1965–1967 encouraged the ‘green revolution’, after the 1972 drought employment generation programmes were developed for the rural poor.

In the  last few years, India has shifted its focus from relief centric  to the present drought management strategy. It  includes institutional mechanisms, employment generation and social welfare practices, community participation and operation of EWS

Institutional mechanism

India has in place an institutional mechanism that ensures coordinated action across ministries.The National Disaster Response Fund  (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Fund  (SDRF) constituted under 2005 Disaster Management Act, provide immediate drought relief to the affected people. For combating the adverse financial impacts of drought, the

National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) was introduced in 1999 and Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme in 2007.

The Drought Management Group was constituted to coordinate the efforts to deal with drought in various states. The National Disaster Management Cell monitors the drought situation in different states, National Calamity Contingency Fund from the Government deals with calamities of severe nature.

DroughtProne Area Development Programme and Desert Development Programme use the plans prepared on the basis of the integrated estimation.

Research institutions like the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT); Central Arid Zone Research Institute; Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute; Indian Council of Forestry Research and Training etc. are some of institutes that are involved in drought management.

Employment generation and social welfare practices

Several programmes of the Government of India help build resilience of communities against drought.The National Mission for Green India, aims at improving the quality of forest cover. Currently, there is an outlay of 2.14 billion dollar, for a period of 2012-17, to address 2.8 million hectares (mha) of degraded lands and enhance livelihoods of thepeople dependent on them.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)   has a strong focus on land, water and afforestation activities
Similarly the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) has targeted development of 75 million hectares of rainfed/degraded area in a phased manner during 2007-2027.

India’s draft National Water Policy address issues such as the  water scarcity, inequities in its distribution and the lack of  planning, management and use of water resources
Other programmes  include the National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas, National Food Security Mission, National Horticulture Mission ,Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Mission on Micro Irrigation.

Community participation

Community participation approach can play a key role in effectiveness of government efforts.

Under this Gram Sabha/Panchayat recommend relief works, Districts and Block-level committees are involved in sanctioning and monitoring of relief works and NGOs play a significant role in training and motivation.

Operation of Drought Early Warning Systems (EWS)

EWS has two components: drought forecasting and drought monitoring. IMD and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting offer meteorological information support for drought preparedness and early warning.

In order to overcome the limitations of drought monitoring, the National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System (NADAMS) project provides near real-time information on prevalence, severity level and persistence of agricultural drought .


Drought management practices have reduced the adverse consequences for the people at large. However, these efforts need to emphasize more on environmental conservation and management like using modern technologies for rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, water conservation at basin or micro level etc. Further there is a need to enhance capacity building and skills for early warning system in light of climate change impacts. There is need of top-down approach to provide national real-time drought monitoring and seasonal forecasting, and a bottom-up approach that builds upon existing regional and local systems to provide national coverage.

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