Droughts in India

  • Category
    Geography
  • Published
    25th May, 2019
  • Maharashtra is currently facing unprecedented drought with dams left with only 16% water stocks. 15 talukas have already been declared drought-hit and total of 136 out of 355 talukas in the state are reeling under drought. They have received rainfall that is less than 50 per cent of average in the state.
  • Gujarat too is facing a massive water crisis. The scarcity is particularly acute in the Saurashtra region, Kutch, North Gujarat and parts of tribal pockets in central and South Gujarat.

Issue

Context:

  • Maharashtra is currently facing unprecedented drought with dams left with only 16% water stocks. 15 talukas have already been declared drought-hit and total of 136 out of 355 talukas in the state are reeling under drought. They have received rainfall that is less than 50 per cent of average in the state.
  • Gujarat too is facing a massive water crisis. The scarcity is particularly acute in the Saurashtra region, Kutch, North Gujarat and parts of tribal pockets in central and South Gujarat.
  • National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) undertook the study jointly with Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to understand the drought patterns and differential role of mitigation strategies in Bundelkhand in order to suggest strategies for future.

Analysis

Causes of drought in Maharashtra:

  • The state is under the influence of southwest monsoon. When southwest monsoon reaches in western coast in the month of June, massive rainfall occurs in the western coast. Rainfall decreases from west to east. When it reaches Marathwada region, the average rainfall becomes 750 mm. A deficit in rainfall adversely affects agriculture resulting in poor output of crop, which in turn affects the financial condition of farmers.
  • Marathwada is a landlocked region. The entire region is drained by the Godavari River and its tributaries such as Purna, Shivna, Dudhna, Vedganga, Sindhphana, Bindusara are the main rivers in the region. Except Godavari, no other is a perennial river. These rivers carry very little water as the summer approaches.
  • Besides insufficient rainfall, poor selection of crops, inefficient methods of irrigation and imbalanced use of ground and stored water also lead to drought-now commonly known as ‘man-made drought’.
  • The Maharashtra government encouraged production of water-guzzling sugarcane. The State accounts for almost 40 percent of the sugar production of India. It takes an average of 2,068 litres of water, a very large amount, for cultivating the sugarcane crop and an additional amount for the mills to produce a kilo of sugar. Almost 72 percent of available irrigation and well water is directed to the production of sugarcane, leaving little water for cultivation of other crops.

Causes of drought in Gujarat:

  • Scanty rainfall with wide aberrations in its distribution has led to chronic drought in the state in 2001.
  • The gradual disappearance of forest cover in the state has further aggravated the drought situation. This has led to large-scale erosion of the topsoil, particularly near the riverside.
  • In addition, groundwater resources are overexploited in the state, with the water table going down nearly 4 m per year, particularly in the premonsoon season.
  • The more permanent and hence reliable sources of water are - Narmada and Tapi. But water from the Narmada Valley Project goes to industries and cities instead of farm lands.

Causes of drought in Bundelkhand:

  • The usual cause is that first the meteorological drought—rainfall much below average—happens. It leads to agricultural drought in the same year because the region depends on monsoons for agricultural production.
  • If the meteorological drought continues for the second consecutive year, then the hydrological drought—below average water availability—occurs.
  • After the revolt of 1857, which primarily covered this region, the British neglected development of the region as a punishment to the people. Even after Independence, the region had a number of dacoits which hampered development.

Measures taken by the government:

  • Maharashtra government has demanded 3 tmcft water from Karnataka. This water will be distributed in the Maharashtra villages bordering Karnataka, where the State is unable to supply tankers.
  • Maharashtra in turn will supply two tmcft of water from the Koyna or the Warna into the Krishna and two tmcft of water from Ujjani dam into the Bhima to help the dry districts of north Karnataka.
  • The state government has announced a 33 per cent waiver on electricity bills for water pumps and 100 per cent waiver of examination fee for school-going students as relief measures in the affected areas.
  • Gujarat Chief Minister assured that drinking water will be provided to every village. Except the Narmada, all other water bodies and dams have negligible water. State government asked the district administrations to start plying tankers in villages where water was not available.
  • After a review and reports from local authorities, Government has decided to provide drinking water to villages located in different districts by tankers so that people don’t face any shortage.
  • According to officials, the number of villages needing water tankers will only rise due to high temperatures that push the demand.
  • Land-resources and land-use management is key to socio-economic sustainability. There is a need to develop a locally relevant policy for sustainable development to be drawn using bottom-up consultations along with expert and research inputs, covering aspects of livelihood, integrated land-water management with agricultural diversification, ecosystem services and sustainability, industrial growth, socio-political uplifting and locally relevant skill-oriented education.
  • An audit mechanism to evaluate various schemes and programmes of the government on spatial and temporal background needs to be established to examine their social and environmental implications – scale of benefits and sections of beneficiaries distribution. An approach called ‘mitigation analysis’ as a simple approach can be enforced.
  • Local level integrated planning leading to districting level planning can prove directly beneficial. Strategy and action plan for water, environment and natural resources must be integrated for smooth and effective implementation.

Drought and poverty:

  • Drought has class biases; it impacts the poorest the hardest. It has been well documented that a poor farmer takes three to four years to recover from a drought, depending on the severity. As has been the trend, a severe drought strikes every eight to nine years in India. So, it is a major reason for perpetuating poverty.
  • A study undertaken by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences, in association with research organisations of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha, shows that drought is a major factor for keeping people below the poverty line forever.

Farmer’s suicide:

  • At present it can be seen that Bundelkhand is competing with Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala in the digit of farmers’ suicides.
  • Bundelkhand, sandwiched between the northern plains and the rocky soil of the Vindhya ranges, unfit for agriculture and industry both, is facing this crisis expect the area of Jalaun district which is partially suitable for water consuming crops.
  • Thus in this geographical location, situation is further worsen by activities like practicing cash crops, mining, deforestation and therefore people of the marginalized community of Bundelkhand are now starving from hunger and are migrating from rural areas. This called the need for special package called Bundelkhand Relief Package- assistance from Government of India as a special package.

 Report published by the NIDM:

  • NIDM undertook the study jointly with Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) to understand the drought patterns and differential role of mitigation strategies in Bundelkhand in order to suggest strategies for future.
  • The research report—Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Analysis for Drought in Bundelkhand region—threw up many more issues. It talks of three kinds of droughts—meteorological, agricultural and hydrological.
  • The most important finding that has emerged from the study is about anomalies between different kinds of droughts. The usual pattern is that first the meteorological drought—rainfall much below average—happens. It leads to agricultural drought in the same year because India depends on monsoons for agricultural production. If the meteorological drought continues for the second consecutive year, then the hydrological drought—below average water availability—occurs.
  • According to collected evidence that in Bundelkhand this pattern [cycle of drought] has been broken many times, indicating that there are lapses in the efforts made by the authorities to provide relief. For instance, reasons for lack of drinking water in 2011 were man-made as rainfall was ample.

Way forward:

  • Sustainable development is a broad and complex subject but has no alternative, especially when we look at challenges and miseries of Bundelkhand.
  • Water management at all levels—household, farm, landscape and ecosystem and as well as village, taluka and district levels—need to be undertaken as a mission for socio-economic uplift and to remove disparities.
  • There has to be strong political and administrative will—whether mooted by public opinion, awareness or academic movements. Prime goal needs to be one.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Why do the regions of Marathawad, Saurashtra and Bundelkhand in our country regularly face droughts? Discuss the steps taken by the government to mitigate these frequent draughts, and what more needs to be done to solve this issue.

X
History Webinar

© 2020 Basix Education Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved