Droughts UPSC | Natural Disaster| Contemporary Issues | Geography of India

What is drought? 

  • Drought refers to a situation of reduced availability of water which is often caused by insufficient rainfall, excessive rate of evaporation, excessive use of water from reservoirs, lack of water in groundwater tables, or over-exploitation of groundwater.
  • Drought is a complex phenomenon because it includes meteorological factors such as precipitation, evapotranspiration, groundwater, soil moisture, storage and surface runoff, agricultural practices, socioeconomic conditions, and ecological conditions.

Types of drought:

The following are types of drought:

  • Meteorological drought
  • Agriculture drought
  • Hydrological drought
  • Ecological drought

Meteorological drought:

  • It is a situation where there is a prolonged period of inadequate rainfall.

Agriculture drought:

  • It is also known as soil moisture drought, as low soil moisture leads to crop failures. Areas, where more than 30 % of areas are irrigated, are excluded from agriculture drought-prone areas.

Hydrological drought:

  • When the availability of water in water reservoirs like aquifers, lakes, dams, etc falls below than replenish level [precipitation can not replenish the original level]. This type of situation is called a hydrological drought.

Ecological drought:

  • When the productivity of the natural ecosystem decrease due to a shortage of water. Consequently, organisms face ecological distress.

Drought prone areas in India:

  • Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on monsoon rainfall.
  • Drought and flood are two main features of the Indian Monsoon.
  • As per the estimate, 19 % of geographical areas and 12 % population suffer due to drought every year.
  • 30 % of total geographical areas are identified as drought-prone areas.
  • Some regions experience a flood in one season and experience drought in another season due to the large-scale variation and unpredictability behavior of the Indian monsoon.
Drought prone areas in India




India can be divided into three drought zones:

Extreme Drought Affected Areas:

  • Most part of Rajasthan lies west of Aravali.
  • Kachchh region of Gujarat.

Severe drought Prone areas:

  • Eastern Rajasthan
  • Most part of the MP
  • Eastern part of Maharashtra
  • Telangana
  • Part of Jharkhand and Orissa
  • Interior part of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

Moderate drought-prone areas:

  • Northern Rajasthan, Haryana
  • Part of Gujarat and Maharashtra
  • Interior part of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu


The consequence of Drought:

Socio-economic Consequences:
  • Drought has a cascading effect on various aspects of the environment and society
  • Crop failure leads to scarcity of food and fodder
  • Inadequate rainfall leads to a shortage of water
  • shortage of food, fodder, and water leads to large scale death of humans and cattle
  • The spread of Malnutrition and poverty
Health Consequences:
  • The spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera and hepatitis
Environmental Consequences:
  • Drought leads to long terms of implications of distress on the physical environment

Mitigation of Drought Consequences:

Immediate steps:

  • Distribution of drinking water, medicine.
  • Make availability of fodder and water to cattle.
  • Shifting people and cattle to a safer place.

Long terms plans:

  • Focus on Climate resilient agriculture and water harvesting technique.
  • Identification of aquifers.
  • Rivers interlinking.
  • Construction of reservoirs and dams.
  • Remote sensing and satellite imagery to identify possible river basins for the transfer of water.
  • Water harvesting at the household as well as panchayat level.
Why drought is one of the most common climatic extremes in India?
The following are reasons for drought as the most common climatic extreme in India:
  • About 80 % of India's water requirements are get fulfilled by monsoon rains and we are so much dependent on monsoon for water. The monsoon is erratic in nature and the intensity and duration of monsoon rainfall are dependent on many factors such as El-NINO, LA-NINA, ENSO, Jet Streams, depression in Atlantic oceans, relief, Himalayan, wind directions, etc. Monsoon rain has become more uncertain due to global warming. As a result, same time, some part of India is facing drought and flood simultaneously.
  • Unsustainable urbanization is also causing drought in India. Moisture content in the soil is decreasing due to encroachment the flood areas, water reservoirs, and concretization of the earth's surface.
  • Moisture holding capacity of soil is also decreasing due to the usage of chemical fertilizer as a result it requires regular rainwater or irrigation water for crops. The gap in monsoon rains leads to crop failure.
  • Some regions are exploiting groundwater an unsustainable way of growing the water-intensive crop, as a result, it also decreases the moisture in soils.

Because of the above reasons, drought is one of the most common climatic extremes in India.


Try to solve the following questions:
  • Appraise why drought is one of the most common climatic extremes in India. ( 15 marks) ( UPSC 2021 geography optional)

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