Climate Change

Drought scare looms large over a fifth of India

Till 2020, 7.86% of India’s land was under drought-like conditions  

 
By Shagun Kapil
Published: Tuesday 24 August 2021

Over a fifth of India’s land area (21.06 per cent) is facing drought-like conditions, according to recent data released by Drought Early Warning System (DEWS), a real-time drought-monitoring platform. 

This is 62 per cent more than the area under drought during the same period last year, which was 7.86 per cent. 

The 21.06 per cent area is under different degrees of drought — ranging from abnormally dry to exceptionally dry. While 1.63 per cent area and 1.73 per cent land is under ‘extreme dry’ and ‘exceptional dry’ conditions, 2.17 per cent is under ‘severe’ dry conditions. As much as 8.15 per cent is under ‘moderate’ dry conditions. 

Around 7.38 per cent land is ‘abnormally’ dry, according to the latest data released August 16, 2021. 

Several north, central and eastern states have been witnessing dry conditions of late. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Odisha and some north-eastern states like Nagaland are under severe to exceptional drought like conditions, according to estimates based on the last two months’ rainfall patterns.

“Southern Rajasthan, northern Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are facing a difficult time. If these regions don’t receive rainfall during the remaining part of the monsoon season, conditions may worsen,” said Vimal Mishra, associate professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

The institute is managing the DEWS platform. 

Uneven distribution and failed monsoon are among the major drivers behind the current situation.

Most of these states recorded deficient rainfall, according to India Meteorological Department data. Gujarat had a rainfall deficit of 48 per cent till August 19; Odisha 29 per cent; Nagaland and Punjab 22 per cent each; Chhattisgarh 11 per cent; and Rajasthan four per cent.

Odisha is staring at a drought in several districts, according to the estimates based on soil moisture index in the last one month. The state government has already directed the agriculture department to prepare a contingency plan to save Kharif crop, according to media reports. 

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