A drought of up-to-date data

Nearly 27 per cent of India has undergone a climatic shift since the last study on drought areas

By Vibha Varshney
Last Updated: Thursday 17 September 2015

A CLASSIFICATION of drought-affected areas was done in India in 1973-74 when the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP) was launched. It has been used since then for carrying out drought-proofing measures. However, researchers from the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture in Hyderabad contend that it is time to relook at the classification.

B Venkateswarlu, director of the institute and one of the researchers, says a new classification is necessary to ensure that funds are directed towards those areas which are most affected by droughts. Their study was published in the August 25 issue of Current Science.

As the nodal agency for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s adaptation and mitigation studies on climate change, the institute has been analysing the effects of global warming on districts in India. The researchers used recent data on rainfall and evapotranspiration from 144 stations located across India to compute the moisture index for figuring out different climatic zones in the country down to the district level. Such a classification could be a big help in formulating programmes for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17), which says that developmental schemes should be implemented using district-level plans and must meet the need of each district.

When the researchers compared their results with a similar classification done in 1988, they found that arid regions had substantially increased in Gujarat and decreased in Haryana. The study also found that some dry sub-humid regions in Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh had now become semi-arid. The most important shift observed was inÔÇêChhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh where 12, 7, 4 and 5 districts, respectively, shifted from moist sub-humid and humid to dry sub-humid category (see map).


Overall, around 27 per cent of the geographical area of the country has seen a climatic shift since the study conducted in 1988. The shift from moist sub-humid to dry sub-humid was the largest and made up 7.23 per cent of the country’s area. Venkateswarlu points out that due to this shift, some new areas have emerged which are in dire need of assistance and should be given priority. “The eastern states which have become dry are also poverty-stricken. We need to focus on them,” he says.

“This study necessitates reorientation of agricultural planning in different states of India,” says A S R A S Sastri, professor at the department of agrometeorology, Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Sastri too worked on climate change in different districts of Chhattisgarh. “We found that while earlier the climate type of Chhattisgarh was moist sub-humid, due to global warming, it has changed to dry sub-humid. In eight districts, the climate had changed to semi-arid and our projections indicateÔÇêthat in seven more districts it would change to semi-arid in the coming 10-15 years. In other words, desertification process has started in these districts,” says Sastri.

The researchers say that climatic classification should be revisited at least once every 30 years.

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  • Could you provide the link to

    Could you provide the link to the CRIDA study? And how can one get access to the new classification?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Please see

    Please see http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/105/04/0492.pdf

    Posted by: Vibha Varshney | 4 years ago | Reply
  • Need to take this study with

    Need to take this study with a pinch of salt as it were. The main reason is that the assumptions are heroic particularly with reference to the ecology of the area under consideration. For instance when one talks about CC and GHG it is essential to incorporate all sentient beings in the equation and not restrict one to rainfall and agrimetreology. How is this report different from the reported ICAR and krishi bhawan inputs to the agriculture parliamentary standing committee on climate change?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • First off all there is no

    First off all there is no change in rainfall pattern or monsoons pattern in India with global warming. This is only hypocrisy. Indian rainfall follow a natural variation -- Indian Southwest Monsoon rainfall follows a 60-year cycle -- 30 years with majority of years having good rainfall followed by 30 years with majority of years having poor rainfall. By choosing the period for drought analysis there is a risk. See my book published in 1993 "Agroclimatic/ Agrometeorological Techniques as applicable to dryland agriculture in developing countries" ndia: An agroclimatological and agrometeorological perspective" [2002]. In these books, it was shown how the drought years change under below and above the average patterns. In fact yesterday I sent a mailing to MoEF on the issue of AR-5 IPCC relating to Indian monsoon and other issues -- here it may not be possible to include that as it is big and contains figures. If somebody wants I can send them -- E-mail: jeevanandareddy@yahoo.com.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Precipitation (or rainfall)

    Precipitation (or rainfall) and potential evapotranspiration (PE) are the two agro-meteorological parameters largely used in delineation of climatic zones. May I request you please refer the article published in Current Science. It has not attempted building / developing any equation to evaluate climate change; but used an equation already developed (available in literature) for carrying out the climatic classification at district level. The study used that equation, but with recent data sets, with a view to compare the results with a study made at similar scale using relatively older data sets. As reviewed in the paper, there were several studies in literature that delineated climatic zones using rainfall and PE.

    The ICAR launched a project 'National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture' (NICRA) in 2011, which aims at enhancing resilience of Indian agriculture to climate change and climate variability through strategic research and technology demonstration. The research on adaptation and mitigation covers crops, livestock, fisheries and natural resource management. The aim of the paper appeared in Current Science is different. As climate change literature pertaining to India reported greater warming during post 1970 period, the paper aimed at revisiting climatic classification using recent data sets (post 1970) with a view to see whether there are any shifts in climatic zones.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • You rightly said. All India

    You rightly said. All India average monsoon rainfall was found trendless over an extended period starting from year 1871.

    But, you are aware, significant spatial variations were found at division level. You also know, greater warming was observed (mean annual surface air temperature) of 0.21 ┬░C/10 years during post 1970 period as compared to 0.51 ┬░C/100 years during the past century. Under these premises revisiting climate at district level was undertaken.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • I wonder, what you are

    I wonder, what you are saying???

    You mentioned 0.21 degrees Centigrade per ten years, which means 2.1 degrees per 100 years. This is something great invention. When we are talking os climate cycles -- we use such variations at station level and then homogeneous zone level. Andhra Pradesh rainfall presents differently over all India. Also, southwest monsoon present opposite pattern and thus when we take annual rainfall it presents a different patter. So, when we are computing drought index these are taken into account. So far global warming has no impact on India rainfall except local ecological changes impact. This is nothing to do with global warming. Also urban heat-island impact is different from these. So, to meet your job goals you can compute any number of drought indices but please do not divert public mind saying global warming ----. Do some practical research that is useful to farmers as well government to decide important planning issues. Also, don't follow IPCC model prediction based research!!!

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • I don't know why you belittle

    I don't know why you belittle rise of 2.1 degrees per 100 years at country level. One may expect a rise up to 5-7 degrees at station level and 4-6 degrees at zone level. There won't be an end to debate on whether global warming is happening or not. There is vast literature on warming trends across the globe including India. Based on the published literature, our study attempted revisiting the climatic classification in India using moisture index.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply