Drought Understanding Vulnerability

Recent droughts in developing and developed countries and the concomitant impacts and personal hardships that resulted have underscored the vulnerability of all societies to this "natural" hazard, ttis appears to be a clear sign of increasing societal vulnerability resulting from unsustainable resource use and growing pressures on natural resources. As noted previously, many factors are contributing to this trend. Adding to the concern regarding increasing societal vulnerability is distress over how the threat of global warming may increase the frequency, severity, and duration of extreme climate events in the future. As pressure on finite water supplies and other limited natural resources continues to build, more frequent and severe droughts are cause for concern in both water-short and water-surplus regions where conflict between water users has increased dramatically. Conflict has also increased within and between countries because transboundary water issues are exacerbated during water-short periods. Reducing the impacts of future drought events is paramount as part of a sustainable development strategy.

Drought impacts vary on both spatial and temporal scales. Each region or watershed is unique, and the societal characteristics for that area or basin are dynamic in response to many factors. A drought event today may be of similar intensity and duration as a historical drought event, but the impacts will likely differ markedly because of changes in societal characteristics, ttus, the impacts that occur from drought are the result of interplay between a natural event (precipitation deficiencies because of natural climatic variability) and the demand placed on water and other natural resources by human-use systems. For example, societies can aggravate the impacts of drought by placing demands on water and other natural resources that exceed the supply of those resources (i.e., overdevelopment or overappropriation) or through a degradation of the natural resource base, tte literature is replete with examples of this situation in many countries. Societies often expect or plan for normal or above-normal water supplies, ignoring the natural variability of climate and the challenges of adapting to a significant reduction in supply, especially when this reduction extends over multiple seasons or years and drought effects are magnified by a rapidly increasing population, urbanization, land degradation, or other factors.

According to Randolph Kent (1987), a disaster occurs when a disaster agent, such as drought, exposes the vulnerability of a group or groups in such a way that their lives are directly threatened or sufficient harm has been done to economic and social structures, inevitably undermining their ability to cope and survive, tte goal of drought risk management is to impose management and policy changes between hazard events such that the risk associated with the next event is reduced through the implementation of well-formulated policies, plans, and mitigation actions that have been embraced by stakeholders.

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