India's Vulnerability to Drought : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Key Phrases: Gross Domestic Product, UNCCD, Drought in Numbers, Conference of Parties, land restoration, World Meteorological Organisation, World Health Organisation, terrestrial ecosystems.

Why in News?

  • A United Nations report has revealed that many parts of India fall under the list of regions that are vulnerable to drought globally.
  • The report also stated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reduced by 2 to 5 per cent between 1998 and 2017 due to severe droughts in the country.

Do you know?

  • The Drought in Numbers, 2022 report was presented by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • The Drought in Numbers report is a collection of data on the effects of droughts on our ecosystem and how they can be mitigated through efficient planning for the future.
  • The report also helps inform negotiations surrounding key decisions by the UNCCD’s 197 member parties at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15), currently underway in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
  • The number and duration of droughts around the world have increased by an alarming 29% since 2000.

What is COP15?

  • UNCCD’s COP15 focuses on desertification, land degradation, and drought, with the theme for the conference being “Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity.”
  • The conference has brought together government representatives, private sector members, and civil society stakeholders to ensure that land continues to benefit present and future generations.
  • It proposes to tackle “the interconnected challenges of land degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss” as we move into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
  • The UNCCD’s 197 parties, which include 196 member States as well as the European Union, are expected to brainstorm sustainable ideas to further land restoration and drought resilience, focusing on “future-proofing land use.”
  • The UNCCD envisions restoring one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030, creating a land degradation-neutral world.
  • Drought, land restoration, and related aspects such as land rights, gender equality, and youth empowerment are among the top considerations at COP15.

The Most Pressing Concerns:

  • According to World Bank estimates, drought conditions can force up to 216 million people to migrate by 2050.
  • Other factors at play along with drought could be water scarcity, declining crop productivity, rise in sea levels, and overpopulation.
  • Weather, climate, and water hazards have accounted for 50 percent of all disasters and 45 percent of all reported deaths since 1970, World Meteorological Organisation data has revealed. Nine in ten of these deaths have occurred in developing countries.
  • Between 2020 and 2022, 23 countries have faced drought emergencies. These are Afghanistan, Angola, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Ethiopia, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, United States, and Zambia.
  • According to the report, climate change alone will cause 129 countries to experience an increase in drought exposure in the next few decades.

Human Impact:

  • More than a billion people around the world were affected by drought in 2000-19, making it the second-worst disaster after flooding.
  • Africa was the worst hit, with 134 droughts, of which 70 occurred in East Africa. The World Health Organisation has noted that approximately 55 million people globally are directly affected by droughts annually, making it the most serious hazard to livestock and crops in almost every part of the world.
  • The impact of drought is, however, not uniform across genders. Research shows that women and girls in emerging and developing countries suffer more in terms of education levels, nutrition, health, sanitation, and safety as a result of droughts.
  • The burden of water collection also disproportionately falls on women (72 percent) and girls (9 percent).
  • The report notes that they may spend up to 40 percent of their caloric intake fetching water.
  • In 2022, over 2.3 billion people are facing water stress. Almost 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.

Environmental Aspects:

  • According to the report, if global warming reaches 3° C by 2100, drought losses could be five times higher than today’s levels.
  • The largest increase in drought losses is projected in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic regions of Europe.
  • Australia’s megadrought in 2019-2020 contributed to “megafires” resulting in one of the most extensive losses of habitat for threatened species. About three billion animals were killed or displaced in the Australian wildfires.
  • On a related note, 84 percent of all terrestrial ecosystems are threatened by changing and intensifying wildfires.
  • According to a 2017 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the percentage of plants affected by drought has more than doubled in the last 40 years.
  • Around 12 million hectares of land are lost each year due to drought and desertification.


  • Drought is usually defined as a water shortage for an extended period of time caused by a deficiency of rainfall.
  • During severe droughts, agricultural crops do not mature, wildlife and livestock are undernourished, land values decline, and unemployment increases.

Steps to Mitigate Drought:

  • Water harvesting, protecting water sources against contamination.
  • Developing water sources – such as micro dams, ponds and wells, use of reserve sources of groundwater and water rationing/allocation.
  • Restoring pastures and balancing land and water resources.
  • Recovering the water holding capacity of soils through tree planting (including fruit trees) and the protection of riverbanks and wetlands.
  • Implementing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), such as mitigating upstream-downstream user conflicts and coordinating between water users, communities and sectors.
  • Diversifying rural livelihoods through social protection, cash-transfer programs or improving access to markets and rural services: Access to markets could help create alternative non-farm employment that could reduce the impacts of droughts.
  • Crop insurance.
  • Shifting to drought tolerant crops.


  • An upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, not only affects human societies but also the ecological systems upon which the survival of all life depends.
  • The citizens and government must join hands to prevent droughts to save thousands of lives. This joint effort can help save the world from such a catastrophe.

Sources: The Hindu  

Mains Question:

Q. What does the recent Drought in Numbers report tell us? Suggest steps to mitigate drought. (250 words).