A drought is characterized by scarcity of water. As an agricultural drought affects most as compared to a meteorological or hydrological drought, it is the agricultural drought, which is of common concern. In fact, when the word drought is used, it commonly connotes agricultural drought.

Main characteristics of drought (agricultural drought) are:

i. It builds over a period of time (may be even a year or two) with increased scarcity of water -generally due to insufficient or erratic monsoon rains.

ii. It does not have a well-defined start. It is a creeping phenomenon.


iii. Generally, it does not have a sharp ending although sometimes a prolonged spell of drought can come to a sudden end through a fairly long spell of specially heavy rainfall as in case of depression or cyclone.

iv. Drought can be localized covering a district or a group of districts. On the other hand, it can be widespread covering a few states.

v. Area affected by a drought usually takes an elliptic shape instead of a circular coverage.

vi. Although drought can occur anywhere if there is prolonged scarcity of water, the regions most prone to droughts in India are:

  • Gujarat
  • West Rajasthan
  • Marathwada
  • Telangana
  • Rayalseema
  • Madhya Pradesh
  • Some parts of Orissa (Kalahandi and adjoining districts)
  • Some parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Bihar and U.P.
  • Drought is more troublesome when it occurs over the rainfed areas of the country.