Drought is now a frequent occurrence in the country, in fact the drought of 1998-2002 was considered the worst drought in 50 years. These droughts have become one of the most prominent reasons for poor growth in the regions of Baluchistan. Specifically, the western and central parts of the Baluchistan province remain vulnerable to these droughts almost all year round. The major reason for this natural phenomena’s frequent manifestation is when the monsoon season fails to deliver plentiful rains, the drought emerges.
There are many types of drought but Pakistan is mostly the victim of Meteorological drought, this involves a reduction in rainfall for a fixed period below a specific amount, usually defined as a proportion of the long term average for that same period specified. Though this definition only specifies the precipitation aspects of the drought, this drought further leads to Agricultural and Hydrological droughts in the region.
Drought conditions usually start when the rain producing system fail to deliver rain successively over a vulnerable zone. Winter rainfall fails generally when western disturbances move on to the vulnerable area from the west (at 35 N or higher) causing the Sindh province and parts of Baluchistan to completely go dry. This situation which occurs quite frequently gets aggravated in the months of April and May, as dryness increases due to the high temperatures which are a common feature of these months. Hence, evapotranspiration greatly increases and leads to a perpetual drought.
Moreover during the summer months from June to September, if a monsoon low or a monsoon depression does not reach our areas from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal where it forms, then monsoon rains are scanty in the northern parts of the country. These northern regions include northern parts of Punjab, NWFP and the northern areas. This accompanied by no rainfall in the months of October and November leads to further worsening of the yearly drought as was the case in 2000 when in the region of Cholistan tribes and nomads had to move to other areas and the government had to take emergency measures.
Such low rainfall caused drought causes soil deficiency, plant water stress, reduced biomass and yield, hence it affects agriculture extensively. Pakistan being an agro based economy suffers extensively due to these droughts. Such droughts also cause reduced stream flow, inflow to reservoirs, ponds and lakes; reduced wildlife habitat and wetlands, hence resultantly a hydrological drought emerges. These droughts have their various economic, social and environmental impacts.
According to the UN findings these droughts have crippling affects, in the drought of 1998-2002 devastated livestock and intensely impacted fruit orchards and rain fed cereal production. Firstly the livestock sector of many drought struck regions reported losses of up to 60 percent. Secondly Farmers faced financial problems as orchards dry up and there is irreversible damage to large areas of land, affecting fruit production. Lastly, droughts in the regions of Baluchistan for the past decade or so have resulted in vast spread of many diseases. Children and mothers were found to be anemic in many areas. Moreover the UN findings stated that diseases like Malaria, Diarrhea and Tuberculosis were common amongst the inhabitants of drought hit areas.
It is up to the government to make sure that inhabitants of drought affected areas are receiving proper relief. In this regard it has taken many steps to provide relief. Moreover efforts should be directed towards reducing the effects of low rainfall on crops and livestock and other sources of water or irrigation should be developed to nurture growth in the drought area (especially Baluchistan).