Early and dynamic warning: An integrated approach to drought management

Bhu Var Ahan Narasimhan
Chairman, Food Corporation of India, 1620, Barakambha Lane, New Delhi-110001, India.
Tel.: +91-11-3313346, Fax: +91-11-3316873.
E-mail: chmnfci@nde.vsnl.net.in

The complex and multidimensional impact of drought warrants a clear definition of the concept of warning, its content and its timing. Drought has short-term and long-term implications for economic development and quality of life of a society. Drought management calls for special concerted action of contingency crop planning, water budgeting, fodder development, employment generation, stabilisation of economic activities, sustenance of nutritional levels and infrastructural development. The scientific inputs in drought management would therefore have to ensure appropriate warning systems in place, so as to facilitate suitable intervention.

In the fulfilment of its objectives, the warning system needs to highlight long-term propensities and focus on aspects of imminence of incidence. Since several ecological, biotic and managerial factors will impinge on the progressive impact of a creeping and persistent disaster like drought, scientific and managerial warning systems would have to continuously evaluate feed backs from the field and redefine forecasts. Such feed backs would, apart from meteorological assessment of precipitation, relate to levels in water bodies, degree of evapotranspiration in different regions, the moisture balance in crops, the status of drinking water availability, changes in the health and nutritional standards and income levels in the society. These are highly dynamic factors. Warnings encompassing these aspects would set the parameters for immediate ameliorative measures and would therefore need to be dynamic if intervention has to realise its objectives.

Integral to drought management are the efforts to improve the resilience of societies. These can be brought about only by creation of drought proofing assets, adoption of appropriate land use and cropping practices and income stabilisation through economic diversification and creation of skills. These require ever vigilant public systems to provide insight into drought proness of areas, changing resource endowment and socio-economic practices having implications for sustainability of livelihood.

The warning systems would, therefore, need to encompass meteorological, geological, agronomic, hydrological and managerial aspects. This paper seeks to present an integrated approach, evolved in India which has, with considerable success, ensured that warning covers both short-term and long- term aspects, and that it is timely and dynamic.