Droughts are greatest threats to sustainable development

VINOD CHANDRASHEKHAR DIXIT

The nationwide drought is only making the lives of farmers and citizens wretched. The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India with temperatures crossing 40C for days now.Going by the figure, n 2021, a total of 432 catastrophic events were recorded, which is considerably higher than the average of 357 annual catastrophic events for 2001-2020. Floods dominated these events, with 223 occurrences, up from an average of 163 annual flood occurrences recorded across the 2001-2020 period. According to the Central Water Commission, water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity.Droughts are among the greatest threats to sustainable development, especially in developing countries, but increasingly so in developed nations too. In fact, forecasts estimate that by 2050 droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.

India should wake up and authorities concern be it a politician, bureaucrats or general public should understand the grave situation in store for us due to the fast change of climate. The greatest impact of a drought is seen on the weaker sections of society. These include landless labourers, small marginal farmers and artisans like weavers.
Over 55 crore farmers and rural populations across 13 States are in the grip of drought, and it is a multi-dimensional crisis. The 2016 drought is of richer and more water-guzzling India.Drought is human-made. The oppressive drought is a continuing phenomenon, especially in the context of global warming. The ground water stored underground over hundreds of thousands of years was sucked out. This classless drought makes for a crisis that is more severe and calls for solutions that are more complex. One cannot say India cannot implement the measures like above to improve its water retention. The insensitivity on the part of Governments and the business class is appalling. It is heart-rending to read about people walking miles to get a small pot of water. Right from Independence the problems of drought and flood management have remained unresolved. Around 400km from Mumbai, the region has been getting insufficient rains for the past three years.
The shortage of power has forced the farmers to spend more on diesel consumption. On the other hand, crop diversification needs to be advertised in a well-managed manner before acceptance. In the cities, slum dwellers have been badly affected because they cannot afford to buy water from private tankers. The money-lender charges high rate of interest and the inability of the farmer to repay the loan compel them to forfeit their mortgaged property. In extreme cases, the farmers tend to commit suicide.
Modern technologies should be implemented on farm. Water storage should be given top priority. If weather forecasting information is available beforehand to farmer, they can be trained to tackle the situation by storing grains and water in a manner so as to fight the drought duration. Skill should be developed in this field too.
What we need is the long term planning and vision to tackle drought.We need to reduce water usage in all sectors – from agriculture, urban to industry. Crisis management is of course important, but crisis prevention is more so.The severity and intensity of drought is not about lack of rainfall; it is about the lack of planning and foresight.