The tragedy caused by drought affects the people slowly and vastly. This is different type of agony but painful. To see domestic animals to die of hunger and thirst before ones own eyes; to send beloved members of the family in search of employment to far off places in extremely uncertain and exploitative conditions, reduction in diet to reduce the already meager diet, to wander in search of work all day long in relief works and return rejected and empty-handed in the night, these are some of the heart rending scenes from the drought affected areas of India.

What is a drought?

According to meteorologists the rainfall deficiency during a long period over a large area is called a drought. Drought can also occur when ground water level is not within reach of agricultural communities. The government also declares on area affected by drought, if more than 50 percent crop loss happens in an area due to meteorological condition.

Causes of drought

Major cause of drought in India is scarcity of rain. But humans have interfered in the environment processes by their activities. People have filled up the natural resources like ponds and lakes. They have destroyed the vegetation cover. Vegetation cover impedes the flow of rainwater and force it to percolate in the ground. Humans have dug lakhs of tube wells and depleted the ground water reservoirs.

Impact of drought

Droughts cause scarcity of food and water. Hungry and thirsty people cry for help. People die of hunger, malnutrition and epidemics. People are forced to migrate from their area of residence. Crops fail due to scarcity of water. Cattle because fodder and water are not easily available.

Farmers are deprived of their employment. People leave their villages with their families for a long, unknown and uncertain journey in the pursuit of food, water, green fodder and employment.

Drought prone areas of India

There is a major region that lies between South Rajasthan and Tamilnadu. It includes west south Rajasthan and Tamilnadu. It includes areas of west Madhya Pradesh, central Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Due to deficiency in Monsoon rainfall and environmental degradation, Rajasthan and Gujrat are generally affected by drought. Out of 593 districts in India, 193 districts are severely drought prone. In 2003 most parts of Rajasthan experienced drought for the fourth consecutive year.

Measures to cope with Drought

(i) Suitable farming methods for arid areas: By adopting the following methods it is possible to mitigate the intensity of drought. The methods are: Production of coarse and hardy cereals; conservation of soil moisture by deep ploughing, storing water behind small dams, collecting water in ponds and tanks and use of sprinklers for irrigation.

(ii) Sowing drought resistant crops: By sowing drought resistant crops of cotton, Moong, pearl millet, wheat, etc, the impact of drought could be mitigated to a certain extent.

(iii) Rain water harvesting: Collection of each and every drop of rain could help in coping with the drought.

(iv) By making high bunds around the fields, adoption of terrace cultivation, planting trees on the bunds of fields, the use of rainwater can be maximised.

(v) Water can also be conserved by taming the irrigation canals with mortar and bricks.

(vi) Small quantity of water can irrigate comparatively larger area by using drip irrigation method.

Drought prone area programme

This programme was initiated in 1973. The objectives of the programme are:

(i) To minimise the adverse impact of drought on crops, domestic animals, productivity of land, water and human resources. This could be done by integrated development by using appropriate technologies as it was done for the natural resources of Gujrat.

(ii) By developing, conserving and suitably using the rainwater, the ecological balance could be maintained for a longer period.

(iii) To improve the economic and social conditions of the section of society who do not have access to resources and facilities.


  • The rainfall deficiency during a long period over a large area is called a drought.
  • States of Rajasthan and Gujrat are comparatively more drought-prone than other states.