Drought is firmly established in 2015. Every inhabited continent faces extremely high water stress. This is caused by lower rainfall and chronically increasing over use of water resources by farmers, businesses, residents and consumers. The strong, warm, EL Nino current is firmly established this year; with low nutrients, causing lower rainfall and reduced agricultural production. This in turn affects commodity prices, increasing inflation and resulting in social unrest.
In Europe drought has affected large areas. The Czech Republic’s hop harvest has dropped 34%; Asia is striken by drought laying its skeletal hand on India, Mongolia and Eastern Russia. Some parts of India are too dry to plough. One thousand three hundred farmers committed suicide in the last three months because of drought. Ninety lakh farmers have been hit by a severe drought in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra. Rains have been scanty over the last three years. Drought is a creeping phenomenon that occurs when there is long period with lowered rainfall. This insidious problem causes drastic fall in agricultural yield. It said that Indian agriculture is a gamble in the monsoons. Here there have been three failed monsoons. What we need to do is store water when there is good rainfall and always uses water carefully. The east coast of India, especially Telangana is similarly affected. Drought in Africa is entrenched in the equatorial northern regions. Tanzanian farmers have changed their crop and food pattern from maize to sweet potatoes which are drought resistant. Uganda and Kenya are being forced to follow suit. Across the United States, 7 million acres have been burnt by wild fires. Alaska and California have been worst affected. Brazil is reeling from water shortage. Chilean grape farmers are looking for drought resistant vines. Australia is becoming dustier and 24 people died in Papua New Guinea as a result of poisoned water and hunger.
The impact of drought can be catastrophic:
Farmers are the worst affected. Money may be borrowed merely to irrigate the crops and in digging new wells. Expenditure on food and water will increase for cattle and sheep farmers. Supporting industries like makers of pump sets, tractors and food for livestock will suffer losses. Wild fires thrive in drought prone areas destroying life and property. Lakes dry up and the fishing industry is affected. Hydro-electric power generation suffers and energy costs go up. Food prices shoot up.
Wild animals languish due to lack of food and water. Plants and trees are badly affected. The quality of soil becomes degraded and erosion sets in. Wet lands dry up as do the plants that grow there. The water table goes down – lakes, ponds and reservoirs dry up and the water table sinks, in the wild, fires blaze uncontrolled. Less food means, pregnant mothers are affected as are their unborn babies suffer developmental defects that are lifelong.
Suicides of farmers in the single state of Maharashtra, is the most shocking and obvious social impact. Anxiety and depression affect large parts of the population. The threat of life and health constantly stalk the population. Migration from villages to over crowded cities is an immediate result.
What can we do?
• Conserve water and learn to store water
• Be aware if a drought is impending, study the patterns of the past and be in touch with the latest information.
• Always Practice and propagate rain water harvesting.
• Find out where your water comes from and test the quality of water.
• Make sure your wells are environment friendly and not so deep as to cause degradation of the ground water table.
• Make sure some of your activities do not cause water pollution, especially of ground water
• Be sure to call attention and take action against water pollution.
Dr. Rekha Shetty