Newspapers nowadays are filled with all the bizarre news such as many parts of India have been suffering from prolonged drought conditions. According to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007, the world has been more drought-prone during the past 25 years and the vulnerability of tropical countries to drought is likely to increase.
The Indo-Gangetic plains in Uttar Pradesh, a state in north India have immensely fertile lands. Despite 80% of the croplands located in the region, irrigation is not assured throughout the year and dependence on rainfall results in frequent moisture deficits.
According to the statistics, in early 2008-09, the failure of monsoon threatened the projected growth rate of 6.1% of the Indian economy, as 278 (44 %) out of 820 districts of India were affected by drought. Of these, 58 districts were in Uttar Pradesh, the largest food grain-producing State. This shows that this problem has been there from decades and has been neglected or has not been in the eye of the organizations, which will in turn make humankind pay a hefty price.
As worried as we should be, to deal with the climate change crisis and climate variability, India Water Partnership (GWP-India) under its Strategy 2009-13, and GWP-SAS work plan 2010 focused on the status of drought in Uttar Pradesh to find out the best remedial measures to cope-up and mitigate the impacts of drought. This gives us hope for things to change for better in the future.
The following image below depicts the seriousness of the groundwater depletion rate in India and specifically in Uttar Pradesh. As we can observe the amount of Net Groundwater left is no way near the Net Annual Groundwater available, which is a red flag of drought occurring shortly.
The scariest part is that the impact of the drought is deeper than just water and food scarcity and affected the living conditions of the people, physical and social impacts of drought-like child labour, child marriages, depression, the drudgery of women, economic impacts like crop failure, declining income levels, loss of livelihood in agriculture, sale of assets among many others. It also includes severe environmental impacts like the decline in water recharge and water levels, loss of biodiversity, destruction of wild species, overgrazing, and degeneration of forests.
This unending drought has turned a number of farmers in the Bundelkhand region, spread over Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Madhya Pradesh, defaulters, so much so that their lands are to be auctioned next week and due to their inability to repay loans, the land holdings of 58 farmers in Banda district, UP, are to be auctioned between June 10 and June 22. These farmers owe nearly Rs 50 lakh to a cooperative bank. There are worries that will defame them publicly.
People have started fleeing the water scarce Bundelkhand region where land is not fertile and agricultural production is not enough for small farmers. The region, which has the dubious distinction of being the most backward in the state, just witnessed the 13th drought in the past 15 years, resulting in 15th consecutive crop failure.
Adaptation strategies included were many of the coping strategies to drought practiced by people are not sustainable; people who succeed in finding alternative occupations are less affected; wells near check dams helped sustain some crops; institutional support is helpful to sustain livelihoods (dairy co-operatives, panchayat, NGO); households with diversified livelihoods are less affected by drought; information networks have been helpful to people to find labour elsewhere; drought relief and drought-proofing works helped the asset-less people to survive; demand-side management of water helps sustain livelihoods; improved agricultural practices and drought-resistant variety have potential for food and livelihood security; livelihood finance strategies are needed.
The intervention required to manage the drought includes the provision of need-based science and technology applications with a focus on the fusion of local knowledge and organized knowledge for the development of agriculture system and the livestock sector; provision of renewable energy services for household improvement and/or enterprise development, watershed-based planning for managing drought, water and livelihoods; strengthening different kinds of institutions (SHG, Farmers Club, etc); empower farmers with knowledge of water management techniques, drought-resistant crops and varieties, conservation of groundwater; and, customization of the training packages keeping in view the above requirements, as drought will be a recurring feature due to the effect of climate change and global warming.