Date of this Version
We recently surveyed some of the drought-affected areas (Figure 1) in the Indian arid region in a publication entitled “Strategy to Combat Drought and Famine in the Indian Arid Zone.” This article is a summary of the report.
The present drought in the arid and semiarid regions of India is due to the cumulative effect of inadequate rainfall during 1997–99. Twelve states in India are in the grip of severe drought, with Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh (Table 1) being the most affected. The Indian arid zone encompasses 32 million ha and is highly prone to droughts and famines. During the 20th century, the region experienced agricultural drought an average of once every two or three years (Table 2).
Often droughts persist continuously for 3 to 6 years, such as the droughts of 1903–05, 1957–60, 1966–71, 1984–87, and 1997–99. When the monsoon rains do not occur, the region is totally dependent on buffer stocks for food and fodder to sustain its 19.8 million people and 28 million livestock. Migration in search of fodder, food, work, and water is a common feature, causing hardships for desert dwellers, livestock casualties, and famines during extreme drought situations.