Reeling under dry spell

Parched landFile photo: APChanni Anand

Parched landFile photo: APChanni Anand  

The rainfall during the northeast monsoon this year has been scant, resulting in drought situation in Tamil Nadu. Anticipating drought, the Kerala government has imposed curbs on the use of water in reservoirs. Jammu and Kashmir is reeling under the longest dry spell in a decade.

In a country like India which is dependent on the rain for agriculture, a drought can offset the balance. It could lead to a cascading effect – water shortage, crop failure, indebtedness, scarcity of fodder for cattle, migration and farmer suicide. This is will inturn affect education, health and economy of the State and the nation.

But drought in India is a regular phenomenon. It would not be an exaggeration to say that drought occurs almost every year in some Indian states. It is important to develop a robust system to deal with the deadly drought.

What is drought?

Drought refers to a prolonged period of below-average precipitation, leading to critical water shortage. Periods of heat can significantly worsen drought conditions by hastening evaporation of water vapour.


Failure of monsoon is the most common reason for drought. The rivers would go dry and thereby reduce water supply to homes and crops. Global warming could also trigger drought situations as the temperature rise could lead to rather quick evaporation of moisture from land and water. El Nino-related droughts have also led to declines in Indian agricultural output. Around 43 per cent of El Nino events are followed by drought in India, according to data. Human activities such as over farming, excessive irrigation, deforestation, and erosion, badly impact the ability of the land to capture and hold water.

Indian scenario

Assessing country-wide rainfall data for more than 150 years, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), in May 2016, said that India will see drought-like situation more frequently in the coming years. According to the department if the rainfall during the four monsoon months of June to September is deficient by 10 per cent of its long-term average, it is declared a drought monsoon.

The latest findings suggest that while there have been alternate dry and wet spells over the past three decades, the frequency of drought years has been increasing.


Construction of dams, cloud seeding (inducing rainfall through use of chemicals), drought monitoring, crop rotation, recycling of water and installing rainwater harvesting systems are some of the ways to mitigate the effect of drought.

  • Major drought-prone regions of India include the southern and eastern Maharashtra, northern Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan.

  • More than 300 million people living in 256 districts are affected by drought in India after two years of sparse monsoon rains.

  • What can you do?

  • Conserve: Use water wisely, do not waste it

  • Urge your parents and school management to set up rainwater harvesting system in your house and school

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