Drought Monitoring and Planning for Mitigation

Drought is a climatic hazard that occurs in almost every region of the world. It causes physical suffering, economic losses, and degradation of the environment. A drought is a creeping phenomenon, and it is very difficult to determine when a dry spell becomes a drought or when a severe drought becomes an exceptional drought. It is slower and less dramatic than other natural disasters, but its effects are long lasting and widespread.

The cost and misery suffered from a drought are more than typhoons, earthquakes, and all other sudden climatic hazards. A drought results in less water in the soil, streams, and reservoirs, less water for livestock and wildlife, and poor crops and pastures. A chain of indirect effects follows which may include depressed farm income, closure of farm-supporting industries, and reduced hydroelectric power. A drought often induces malnutrition, disease, famine, population migration, and a chain of consequences for farm families (Stehlik, Gray, and Lawrence, 1999). The costs associated with drought are wide-ranging—economical, social, and environmental (National Drought Mitigation Center, 1996b,e).

The economic cost may include losses from crop, dairy, livestock, fishery, and timber production. Economic development, recreational business, and manufacturing are slowed, unemployment increases, and prices of essential commodities soar. Social costs of a drought may encompass food shortages, malnutrition, conflict between water users, water and garbage sanitation problems, increased poverty, decreased living standards and reduced quality of life, social unrest, and population migration from rural areas to urban centers. People experience shock, anger, and denial (Cheryl, 2000). The environmental cost may be in the form of damage to wildlife, wind erosion, higher concentrations of salt and pollutants in water, and decay of vegetation.

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