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A Brief on Drought


It is difficult to provide a precise and universally accepted definition of drought due to its varying characteristics and impacts across different regions such as rainfall patterns, human response and resilience etc. Drought is a normal, recurrent feature of climate and occurs in all climatic regimes and is usually characterized in terms of its spatial extension, intensity and duration. Drought causes economic, environmental and social impacts.

Ministry of Agriculture is the nodal Ministry in respect of monitoring and managing drought conditions and droughts are classified into meteorological droughts, hydrological droughts and agricultural droughts.

Meteorological drought is classified based on rainfall deficiency w.r.t. long term average – 25% or less is normal, 26-50% is moderate and more than 50% is severe.

Hydrological drought is best defined as deficiencies in surface and sub-surface water supplies leading to a lack of water for normal and specific needs. Such conditions arise even in times of average (or above average) precipitation when increased usage of water diminishes the reserves.

Agricultural drought is identified by 4 consecutive weeks of meteorological drought, weekly rainfall is 50 mm from 15/5/ to 15/10, 6 such consecutive weeks rest of the year and crop planted is 80% in kharif season.

In India, around 68% of the country is prone to drought in varying degrees. 35% which receives rainfall between 750 mm and 1125 mm is considered drought prone while 33% receiving less than 750 mm is chronically drought prone.

IMD is the designated agency for providing drought early warning and forecasting. Agricultural Meteorology Division, Pune provides timely advice on the actual and expected weather and its likely impact on the various day-to-day farming operations. Drought Research Unit, Pune provides Crop Yield Forecasts. The National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, a constituent unit of the Department of Science & Technology provides, in consultation with IMD, ICAR and State Agricultural Universities, agro-meteorological advisory service at the scale of agro-climatic zones to the farming community, based on location specific medium range weather forecasts. The Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad and the All India Coordinated Research Projects on Agri-Meteorology and Dryland Agriculture (AICRPAM and AICRPDA) each of them having 25 centres across the country, take part in drought studies pertaining to assessment, mitigation, risk transfer and development of decision support software for drought prone States. Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur for assessing agricultural drought situation in 12 arid Districts of western Rajasthan and disseminates bi-weekly crop-weather agro-advisory bulletins to the farmers. Ministry of Earth Sciences in collaboration with ICAR has set up 89 centres for short and medium range monitoring and forecasting of weather. National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System Developed by the Department of Space for the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation monitors vegetation cover through satellite data based helping in drought assessment by comparative evaluation of vegetation cover with those of previous years. It prepares State-wise monthly reports. There are institutional mechanisms for drought monitoring and early warning at national and state levels. However, these are considered to be inadequate for meeting the demands of drought management and their capacity needs to be strengthened for the purpose of data collection, analysis and synthesis of information. Crop Weather Watch Group (CWWG), an inter-Ministerial mechanism of Central Govt. meets once a week during rainy season (June-September). The frequency of meetings increases during drought occurrence. The composition and areas of responsibility of the CWWG are given below:

The composition and areas of responsibility of the CWWG are given below:
Partners Tasks
Additional Secretary, M/o Agriculture Chairperson: promotes overall coordination
Economics & Statistical Advisor, MoA Report behavior of agro-climatic and market indicators
India Meteorological Department Rainfall forecast and progress of monsoon conditions
Central Water Commission Water availability monitoring in important reservoirs
Plant Protection Division Watch pests and diseases outbreak
Crop specialists Report on crop conditions and production
Agricultural input supply Divisions Supply and demand of agricultural inputs
Agricultural extension specialists Report on field level farm operations
Ministry of Power Manage electrical power for ground water extraction
Indian Council of Agricultural Research Technical input and contingency planning
National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Provide medium term forecasts

The CWWG evaluates information and data furnished by IMD and other scientific and technical bodies to determine the likely impact of meteorological events and other environmental parameters on agriculture. Besides, there can be National and State Drought monitoring Centres to consolidate forecasts, advisories and bulletins, analyze them and disseminate the data and advisories through media.

Ministry of Water Resources

Ministry of Water Resources is involved in drought management mainly on policy guidelines, monitoring and technical & financial assistance to schemes which are drought proofing.


National Water Policy 2012 states that the land, soil, energy and water management with scientific inputs from local, research and scientific institutions should be used to evolve different agricultural strategies and improve soil and water productivity to manage droughts. Integrated farming systems and non-agricultural developments may also be considered for livelihood support and poverty alleviation.

Policy intervention is also made facilitating relaxation in project clearances, funding etc for drought prone areas.


Key drought indicators are considered as rainfall, storage water levels in reservoirs, surface and ground water levels and sowing in drought conditions. Ministry of Water Resources monitor hydrological data – water storage in reservoirs/ponds/lakes, river flow, ground water level yield and draft from aquifers water loss evaporation, leakage, seepage through CWC and Central Ground Water Board.

Drought Proofing Measures

Irrigation has proved to be the most effective drought proofing mechanism and single biggest factor in bringing about the large measure of stability in agriculture production. Construction of storage dam facilitated irrigation by making use of water at proper time of need. The drought prone areas coming under the command of irrigation project is thus provided with assured irrigation water supply throughout the year.

Ministry encouraged State governments for early completion of projects by extending technical and financial assistance to irrigation projects through Schemes like Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme, Command area Development and Water Management programme and Repair, Renovation and Restoration of water bodies.