Short essay on the reasons responsible for bringing Droughts

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The variability of rainfall leading to rainfall deficiency and water shortage causes droughts. In India the erratic nature of the monsoon with long dry spells and high temperature is responsible for creat­ing such drought conditions.

On an average, one in every five years is a drought year. However, its intensity varies from year to year. It is generally more frequent in areas of low (below 60 cm) and variable (variability above 40 per cent) rainfall where irrigation facilities are not well developed. In India there are following three well defined tracts which come under drought prone areas:

(a) Desert and Semi-desert Region-this is a rectangular area whose one side is formed by a line joining Ahmadabad to Kanpur and another from Kanpur to Jalandhar. The area includes Rajasthan, Gujarat, and western Madhya Pradesh, south-western

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana covering about 0.6 million sq. km. of the country's territory. The rainfall in this region is less than 7.5 cm and at places less than 4 cm. The severity of droughts is greater in those areas where irrigational facilities are not well developed. The Indira Gandhi Canal Project and the Sardar Sarovar Project (on the Narmada River) will prove beneficial to this area in minimising the ef­fects of the droughts.

(b) Rainshadow Areas of the Western Ghats-

This is the region situatied on the leeward side of the Sahyadris in about 300 km wide belt stretching from Jalgaon (Maharashtra) to Chitoor (Andhra Pradesh) and occupying an area of about 0.37 million sq. km.

(c) Other Areas-these are in the form of scattered pockets in different parts of the country covering about 1 lakh sq. km of area. These include

(i) Kalahandi region of Orissa, (ii) Purulia district of West Bengal, (iii) Mirzapur plateau, (iv) Palamau region, (v) Coimbatore area, and (vi) Tirunelveli district, south of Vaigai River.

The Irrigation Commission (1972) has iden­tified two types of drought areas in the country:

(a) Drought Prone Areas-in these areas the rainfall is 25% variable from the normal. Following four areas have been included in this group-(i) Gujarat, Rajasthan; adjoin areas of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, and western Madhya Pradesh;

(ii) Central Maharashtra, inner Karnataka, Rayalseema, southern Telangana and some parts of Tamil Nadu;

(iii) north-eastern Bihar, south-eastern Uttar Pradesh; and (iv) Purulia district of West Bengal.

(b) Chronically Affected Drought Areas-here the variability of rainfall is between 25 to 40 per cent from the normal. It includes western Rajasthan and Kachchh.

Above description shows that an area of about 10 lakh sq. km. is affected by droughts and inad­equate rainfall. Of the total gross cultivated area of the country, about 56 million hectares is subject to inadequate and highly variable rainfall. The Irriga­tion Commission (1962) has identified those areas as drought prone areas where the amount of annual rainfall is less than 10 cm, the variability of rainfall is more than 25 per cent and less than 30 per cent of cultivated area is enjoying irrigation facilities.

Among some of the devastating famines and droughts of the recent history mention may be made of the Bengal famine of 1770, U.P. Famine of 1836, the Orissa famine of 1865-66, the Peninsular famine of 1876-78, the Maharashtra drought of 1965-66, the Bihar drought of 1966-68 and the Orissa drought of 1996-97. About 10 million people died in the Bengal famine of 1770, 8 lakh in U.P. famine of 1836, 10 lakhs in the Orissa famine of 1865-66, and 55 lakhs in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu during the famines of 1876-78.

Similarly Maharashtra suffered severe droughts during 1965-66 and Bihar during 1966-68. In 1996- 97 Kalahandi areas of Orissa suffered severe drought conditions and the abnormal behaviour of monsoon led to the failure of cotton crops in Andhra Pradesh forcing some of the farmers to commit suicide. Studies of above description shows that even high to medium rainfall areas of the country are susceptible to famines and droughts due to erratic behaviour of the monsoon.

Although due to the expansion of the modern means of transport and communication and development of irrigational facilities the severity of these droughts has been minimised but these still have bearing on the economy and property of the people.

Drought Prone Area Programme-The DP AP, which covers 615 blocks spread over 90 districts in the country, is an integrated area development pro­gramme in agricultural sector and aims at optimum utilisation of land, water and livestock resources, restoration of ecological balance and stabilising the income of the people particularly the weaker section of the society. Some of the important elements of the programme include : (i) Development and manage­ment of water resources, (ii) Soil and moisture conservation measures, (iii) A forestation with spe­cial emphasis on social and farm forestry, (iv) De­velopment of pasture lands and range management in conjunction with development of sheep husbandry,

(v) Live-stock development and dairy development,

(vi) Restructuring of cropping pattern and changes in agronomic practices, and (vii) Development of subsidiary occupation (Sixth Five Year Plan, p. 172). These programmes are aimed at insulating the economy of these areas from the effects of recurring droughts through diversification of agriculture and promoting forestation, pasture development and soil and water conservation. Of late operational p for these areas are being prepared on yearly b besides medium-term and long-term strategies, has been realised that economic development these areas would be achieved through active which in the long run contribute actively in create' conditions which mitigate the effects of drought these areas. Watershed management is being given highest priority and steps are being taken to prom the cooperative management of the watershed by people in area. A National Water Scarcity grammar has been started since Seventh Five Y Plan to promote dry farming which has now made part of the Twenty-point Programme.

Some of the special achievements of the DP include the Indira Gandhi Canal Project, Sar Sarovar Project (Narmada), launching of spec projects for drought prone areas, promoting agricultural research on droughts through organization like Central Arid Zone Research Institute (Jodhput encouraging emergency food production program and putting emphasis on dry farming etc.

Some of the supplementary programmes mitigating droughts may include judicious utilisation of rain water and avoiding its wastage, introducing new crop pattern resistant to drought condition promoting minor and small irrigation projects, build' in puckka or underground canals to minimise water loss, using drip or trickle irrigation, taking suitable steps for forming the National Water Grid, using new technology to dieseline and use sea water for irrigation, encouraging diversified agriculture, pro­viding regular supply of drinking water, developing cottage and household industries and utilising alter­nate sources of energy-solar, wind, and bio-gas etc, in drought prone areas for domestic and industrial uses.


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