Drought Monitoring

There has not been any significant step toward drought monitoring on a regular basis in Bangladesh. The country has been maintaining a fairly good research effort under the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), which includes 11 research institutes, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) being the apex body of NARS.

There is a lack of coordination among institutions that could have developed a drought-monitoring mechanism. There is no clear institutional framework defining who should do drought monitoring. There is a Disaster Management Bureau, which considers drought as a form of agricultural disaster and only notes the yearly crop loss reported mostly in newspapers. The information concerning moisture availability, especially in topsoil of drought-vulnerable zones, is supposed to be collected by the Soil Resources Development Institute and by the Department of Agriculture Extension. These two organizations have personnel who can offer services at grassroot levels.

The Bangladesh Meteorological Department collects weather information, including temperature and precipitation on a daily basis. It has a good number of weather stations all over the country. But these data are seldom used for real-time monitoring of drought situations. BARC has facilities for a geographic information system (GIS) and a database equipped with models to monitor drought, but the agency does not have the scope and mandate to monitor drought on a regular basis.

Using Satellite Data

The Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization (SPARRSO) of Bangladesh is an efficient organization equipped with state-of-the-art technologies capable of monitoring drought situation. It receives Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR; chapters 5 and 6) data from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

(NOAA). The AVHRR data, received in five different channels, are digitally processed at the SPARRSO, primarily to analyze formation of cyclones and depressions in the Bay of Bengal. To analyze changes in vegetation cover, the radiometric information (% reflectance) received by the NOAA satellite is plotted against the wavelength of the radiation. From standard curves, verified by "ground truthing" with local conditions, the condition of vegetation with regard to growth can be determined. This information is then analyzed using GIS technology to get a spatial view of the analysis (SPARRSO, 1999). The technique was tried jointly by SPARRSO and BARC and has proved useful.

Unfortunately, AVHRR data can only be obtained when there are no clouds in the sky over Bangladesh (i.e., only during the winter season). Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data (chapters 7 and 8) should ideally be used during the monsoon season because it can penetrate through clouds. Unfortunately, SPARRSO operates with very limited funding that does not allow it to procure SAR data from international agencies and data providers. Moreover, the organization does not have the mandate to monitor drought conditions. Its sole responsibility is to monitor cyclone formations. When there are fears of wide-scale loss of Aman due to the postmonsoon drought, SPARRSO is requested by the Ministry of Agriculture to analyze the situation.

Given the technological capacity of SPARRSO, it is possible to monitor drought on a regular basis for all the cropping seasons provided that the ministries involved coordinate with each other and allocate funds to procure information, engage personnel for ground-level data collection and analysis, and enhance the capacity to validate models. In the absence of a proper institutional mechanism, the country has been deprived of valuable information useful to drought monitoring.

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