Drought Mitigation

The following are some strategies for drought mitigation that were developed in India since the 1970s.

Crop Planning

Based on rainfall analysis, water availability periods were identified for several locations in India in order to escape droughts and plan crop sowing according to the water availability (Srinivasamurthy, 1976). Figure 23.4 shows four different scenarios that characterize monsoon behavior in India:

(1) Normal onset of monsoon followed by adequate amount of rainfall,

(2) normal onset of monsoon followed by inadequate amount of rainfall,

(3) late onset of monsoon followed by adequate amount of rainfall, and

(4) late onset of monsoon followed by inadequate amount of rainfall. For each scenario, a different strategy is adopted to minimize the impact of drought on crop production.

In the first scenario, the crop-growing period varies from 90 to 120 days, and cereal crops such as sorghum, pearl millet, maize, pulses such as cowpea, mungbean, blackgram, and oilseeds such as sesame, castor, and groundnut with high density planting followed by leguminous/fodder crop can be grown for maximum profits. In the second scenario, mid-season corrections such as reducing plant population, weeding, and creating soil

Figure 23.4 Different monsoon rainfall situations that occur in the arid region of Jodhpur, India.

mulch can be adopted to alleviate drought effects. In the third scenario, the growing period varies from 40 to 60 days only, and therefore short-duration varieties are adopted to minimize drought impacts. Some of short-duration varieties are HHB-67, CMH-356, and RHB-30 in the case of pearl millet, S-8, K-851, and P-9075 in the case of green gram, and the Maru variety of clusterbean. For the last scenario, short-duration varieties of cluster bean, green gram, cowpea, moth bean, and sesame are preferred.

Crop Mixing and Integrated Farming

Crop mixing (i.e., growing multiple crops during the same growing season) is also advisable to reduce drought impacts. If the rainfall pattern is not suitable for one crop, it may be suitable for the other, and hence crop production can be maximized under drought conditions.

The Central Arid Zone Research Institute at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, developed an integrated farming systems approach for sustainable crop production in arid regions. Following this approach, crops such as pearl millet, clusterbean, mothbean, and sesame were grown in combination with traditional trees (e.g., Prosopis cineraria, T. undulata, A. albeda), or in combination with horticultural trees (e.g., Zizyphus cultvars).

Shelterbelts and Mulching

Soil evaporation losses and high temperatures can be controlled by applying mulch materials. Shelterbelts are also useful in reducing high evaporation losses. Acacia nilotica spp. Indica shelterbelts have been found useful in controlling wind speeds and thus reducing evaporative losses in the arid regions (Gupta et al., 1983). Shelterbelts of pearl millet provided to summer vegetables modified the crop microclimate and increased the yields of okra and cowpea by 30-40% (Ramakrishna, 1985).

Optimizing and Improving Water Resources

After the severe drought in 1987, the government of India focused more on optimizing the use of water from reservoirs and groundwater resources. An integrated watershed management approach can contribute to planning such optimization. In 1984-85, 4400 micro-watersheds covering 4.2 million ha were identified.

The flash floods that sometimes occur in arid or semiarid regions of India could also be used for augmenting groundwater sources through percolation injection wells in conjunction with subsurface barriers. Over past three decades, there has been phenomenal increase in the number of tube wells in arid regions. These wells have supplemented drinking water supply as well as irrigation for some commercial crops.

Under the auspices of the Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojna (i.e., the Indira Gandhi Canal Project), a canal of more than 400 km length along the western border and arid region of Rajasthan was constructed during 196173. This canal carries about 7.59 million acre feet (MAF) of water from Ravi-Beas rivers and irrigates about 1.1 million ha, which contributes an additional production of 3.1 million tons of food grains every year. As a result of this canal, the production of rice, groundnut, castor, rapeseed, and mustard have increased several times (table 23.3).

AGRICULTURAL DROUGHT IN INDIA 307 Table 23.3 Area and production of food grains and oil seeds in 1986-87 and 1987-88

Area (million ha) Production (m. tons)

AGRICULTURAL DROUGHT IN INDIA 307 Table 23.3 Area and production of food grains and oil seeds in 1986-87 and 1987-88

Area (million ha) Production (m. tons)










Total kharif food grains







Total rabi food grains







Total food grains







Kharif oilseeds







Rabi oilseeds







Total oilseeds







Source: The Drought of 1987, Response and Management, vol. I, DAC, Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi.

Source: The Drought of 1987, Response and Management, vol. I, DAC, Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi.

Soil and Water Conservation

The soil conservation department in each state has constructed contour boundaries (in areas with higher slopes) and check dams for water storage and implemented methods to control soil erosion. In addition, ridge-furrow systems, artificial microcatchments, and inter-row water harvesting is also advised to help store soil moisture throughout the growing season and thus mitigate droughts. Figure 23.5 shows a water-harvesting structure commonly used by households for storing rainwater in Rajasthan.

Relief Measures

Relief measures are undertaken mainly by governmental agencies and include supplying food, fodder, drinking water, and animal shelter (mainly for cows to avoid mortality), employment, distribution of seeds, and subsidized power for the rabi season to help boost production (Subbiah, 1993).

Food Security and Buffer Stock The Food Corporation of India (FCI), established in 1965, provides infrastructure for procurement, storage, and distribution of 30 million tons of food grains per year. At the time of droughts, food grains are distributed through FCI from surplus to deficit areas through a public distribution system at subsidized rates. During the 1965-66 drought, India imported 10 million tons of food grains to meet half of its food requirements for the drought-prone areas. But at the beginning of 1987 (the worst drought year in recent times) the FCI had storage (or buffer stock) of 23 million tons of food grains and also collected an additional 13 million tons from surplus areas and supplied it to 285 million people affected by drought. Although the 1987-88 drought was double in severity and affected twice the population as the 1965-66 drought, the country could meet its food requirements from its buffer stocks. In 1979,

Figure 23.5 A Tanka—a common household rainwater harvesting system in Rajasthan, India.

the drought severity was not widely felt, and no starvation deaths were reported because of the buffer stocks of food grains.

Employment Employment is generated under Food for Work program and now under Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (Integrated Rural Employment Scheme introduced in 2001) in which employment is provided to one member of each family affected by drought. Employees are engaged in projects related to deepening of Nadis (i.e., ponds; figure 23.6), construction of medium and/or minor irrigation systems, soil conservation, pasture development and afforestation, construction of schools/governmental buildings, and road building.

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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