Drought

Droughts have an immediate effect on the recharge of soil moisture resulting in reductions of stream flow, reservoir levels and irrigation potential and even the availability of drinking water from wells, tte acreage planted to food crops is also affected by land quality, tte cultivation of lands subject to a high degree of rainfall variability makes them extremely susceptible to wind erosion (and desertification) during prolonged drought episodes, as the bare soil lacks the dense vegetative cover necessary to minimize the effects of aeolian processes.

A study by Chowdhury et al. (1989) have ranked the year 1918 as the worst drought year of the last century- a year when about 68.7% of the total area of the country was affected by drought. It is of interest to note that the year 1917 had exceptionally high seasonal rainfall. Likewise the severe drought years of 1877 and 1987 were followed by flood years of 1878 and 1988. In the last century, the droughts of 1987 and 1972 are the next in order of severity (Table 6.2). Occurrences of droughts in consecutive years have been reported in 1904-05, 1951-52 and 1965-66. ttese pairs of years were associated with moderate droughts, where at least 25% of the country was affected. During 1999, 2000 and 2001 drought conditions prevailed over some parts of India, not affecting the country as a whole significantly.

Table 6.2 Years of Drought in India

Year

Area affected (xlO6 km2)

% area of the country affected

Dt value

category

1915

2.16

68.7

3.64

Calamitous

1877

2.03

64.7

3.38

Calamitous

1899

1.99

63.4

3.31

Calamitous

1987

1.55

49.2

2.37

severe

1972

1.39

44.4

2.05

severe

1965

1.35

42.9

1.95

Moderate

1979

1.24

39.4

1.72

Moderate

1920

1.22

38.8

1.69

Moderate

1891

1.15

36.7

1.54

Moderate

1905

1.09

34.7

1.41

Moderate

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