NEW DELHI, India, 16 January 2017- A total of 330 million people, a quarter of India’s population, have been affected by the drought of 2015-16. The drought has had an impact on 2, 55,923 villages in 254 districts of 10 states. (Source: Indian Express)
Drought is a complex, slow-onset phenomenon of ecological challenge that affects people more than any other natural hazards by causing serious economic, social and environmental losses.
In 2014-15, India reported a 12 percent deficit in rainfall, followed by a 14 percent shortfall in 2015-16. Close to 266 districts across 11 states have officially declared drought in 2016. Some of these districts were experiencing repeated droughts over the past two to three years (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh,) leading to serious food and drinking water security concerns.
Though many states in India, continually faces drought, drought declaration and response management in India have always been a large and complex operation, requiring close, often challenging, and coordination between various government levels.
Against the background of this repetitive drought and drought-like situation in many states of India over the last few years, UNICEF in India carried out a rapid drought impact assessment in eight states, with the aim of providing insights into drought management practices and their effectiveness, The assessment also aimed at identifying UNICEF’s role in supporting efforts to achieve long-term climate and disaster resilience.
“There is an urgent need for a long-term approach to address the underlying risks and impact of drought on communities in particular children and women in India, which have both a social and an increasingly economic impact too,” says UNICEF India Representative Louis-Georges Arsenault..
“ We need to have a forward-looking plan to gradually move towards a more drought resilient India,” adds Louis-Georges Arsenault.
A contextual analysis was done of drought and drought-like situation over the past three to five drought years explaining its impact on women and children within the overall build-up of stress due to various factors like climate variability, unstainable development decisions, and environmental degradation. It was observed that prolonged development deficits created by lack of infrastructure, inappropriate service delivery mechanisms, unsustainable development.
Summary of the findings
Following the assessment, a study observed that prolonged development deficits created by lack of infrastructure, inappropriate service delivery mechanisms, unsustainable development practices and inadequate social safety nets coupled with declining community-based coping mechanisms have increased insecurities and hardships for children, women and their families.
Extended or repeated exposure to drought ends up exacerbating these inherent vulnerabilities. As the study confirmed, ‘drought’ is created by the same socio-political processes that perpetuate vulnerabilities and their consequences.
Within the complex drought picture composed of a multitude of causal factors, the consequences, as revealed by the assessment, were clear: hunger and drinking water stress created by unsustainable development practices. In the 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, India is ranked at the 29th spot, which is rated as serious.
Lars Bernd, Chief of DRR Section sharing his insights about the report calls for immediate and concrete action to avoid the worst hardships assessed in the 2015/2016 drought.
“State Governments need to ensure that critical social infrastructure catering for children and women – primary health centre, anganwadi centres, schools – have sufficient provision of water at all times, before, during and after drought situations”, said Lars Bernd.