Drought as a Planetary Disaster

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    • Recently, a study has revealed that the drought as a disaster has become planetary because around 300 million people in Africa, Europe, North America and Asia are in the grip of drought.  

    Major outcomes of the recent study 

    • Country wise assessment:
      • Africa holds the highest burden of this disaster.
        • East Africa is reeling under its worst drought in four decades. 
      • Europe has also witnessed 45 major droughts in the last century.
      • Nearly half of the US is dry
      • Countries like France and Portugal are enduring the worst drought on record.
    • India based study:
      • In India, states like Odisha, Jharkhand and those in the North East are already under drought-like conditions, notwithstanding the severe floods that hit these areas.
    • Drought emergency:
      • The failure of seasonal rain, long dry spells and gradual drying up of moisture in land with effects on crops are the usual stages that lead up to a drought emergency.

    What is Drought?

    • Drought is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle that can occur anywhere in the world. 
    • It is a slow-onset disaster characterized by the lack of precipitation, resulting in a water shortage. 
    • In recent decades, drought has emerged as one of the biggest drivers of human life loss and economic loss among weather-related disasters.
    • By 2030, or in the next eight years, drought will potentially displace an estimated 700 million people worldwide
    • Classification:
      • Meteorological Drought:
        • It is classified based on rainfall deficiency with respect to long term average, where 25% or less is normal, 26-50% is moderate and more than 50% is severe.
      • Hydrological Drought:
        • It is defined as deficiencies in surface and subsurface 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:
        • It is identified with soil moisture deficiency in relation to meteorological droughts and climatic factors and their impacts on agricultural production and economic profitability.

    Effects of the increasing droughts 

    • Environmental Impacts:
      • Losses or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat
      • Lack of food and drinking water for wild animals
      • Increased stress on endangered species or even extinction.
      • Increase in disease in wild animals.
      • Migration of wildlife.
      • Lower water levels in reservoirs, lakes, and ponds; loss of wetlands
      • More wildfires
      • Wind and water erosion of soils
      • Poor soil quality 
    • Social impacts: 
      • Health problems because of low water flows, poor water quality and dust
      • Threat to public safety and loss of human life due to an increased number of forest and range fires
      • Reduced incomes
      • Human migrations
    • Economic impacts: 
      • Most affected would-be agriculture and allied industries.
      • Rise in the prices of foodstuffs and overall inflation.

    Challenges faced by people and economy 

    • Affecting rich and poor both: It has hit both the poor and rich in developed and developing countries, although the intensity of impact is more for the poor.
    • Increased frequency: Since 2000, several UN agencies point out; the frequency and duration of droughts have increased by nearly 33 per cent.
    • Loss of land: The world loses 12 million hectares of land every year to drought and desertification, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
    • Displacement of people: Forecasts by agencies like the International Organization for Migration show that by 2050, some 215 million people could be displaced due to drought and other climate-related factors. 
      • Two-thirds of the world population could be affected by drought by 2050.
    • Climate change: It is fuelling the intensity of drought in the already vulnerable regions while tightening its grip on not-so-vulnerable areas.
    • Existential hazard: Drought has been an existential hazard for those who depend on natural resources such as land for sustenance.

    International Efforts:

    • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Integrated Drylands Development Programme (IDDP) with the overall goal to strengthen resilience by working on the twin vulnerabilities of poverty and unsustainable land management in the drylands.
    • The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) developed a Drought Risk Reduction framework that takes an integrated development approach and provides a comprehensive framework for both higher-level and local action.
    • The Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) and its partners have adopted three pillars of drought management:
      • Drought monitoring and early warning systems to determine drought status.
      • Vulnerability and impact assessment to determine who and what are at risk and why.
      • Mitigation, drought preparedness, and response to set out actions and measures to mitigate drought impacts and to prepare to respond to drought emergencies.
    • There is a need for a more organized and common conceptual framework for assessing drought risk and for analysing the “Benefits of Action and Costs of Inaction” (BACI).
      • The framework is set out within the model for the overall process of developing a National Drought Management Policy, which was codified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in their 2014 National Drought Management Policy Guidelines.

    Way forward/ Steps taken to prevent drought

    • Water and soil conservation measures 
      • These are mostly water and soil conservation measures that protect agriculture from dry spells and ensure enough water for domestic consumption.
    • Returning to their roots
      • The world both rich and poor, must return to its roots and to indigenous communities who have mastered ways to tame disasters.
    • The Ministry of Water Resources is involved in drought management mainly on policy guidelines, monitoring and technical and financial assistance.
    • Integrated farming systems and non-agricultural developments may also be considered for livelihood support and poverty alleviation.
    • Policy intervention is also made facilitating relaxation in project clearances, funding etc. for drought-prone areas.
    • The Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) and its partners have adopted three pillars of drought management:
      • Drought monitoring and early warning systems to determine drought status.
      • Vulnerability and impact assessment to determine who and what are at risk and why.
      • Mitigationdrought preparedness, and response to set out actions and measures to mitigate drought impacts and to prepare to respond to drought emergencies. 

    Source: DTE