Considering Green Drought for Drought Assessment

What is a Green Drought?

Context: The Karnataka government has requested the inter-ministerial central team to consider the ‘green drought’ prevailing in the state and urged that the assessment be made based on factors like crop growth and yield. 

What is a Green Drought?

  • Green drought is when the vegetation may appear green on the top, but there is stunted growth and soil moisture stress for more than a month impacting yield drastically
  • This phenomenon is particularly problematic because it can be challenging to detect and monitor.

Other Types of Drought

  • Meteorological Drought is the simple absence/deficit of rainfall from the normal. It is the least severe form of drought and is often identified by sunny days and hot weather.
  • Hydrological Drought leads to reduction of natural stream flows or ground water levels, plus stored water supplies. Main impact is on water resource systems.
  • Agricultural Drought occurs when moisture level in soil is insufficient to maintain average crop yields. Initial consequences are in the reduced seasonal output of crops and other related production. An extreme agriculture drought can lead to a famine, which is a prolonged shortage of food in a restricted region causing widespread disease and death from starvation.

Why is Drought Assessment a Challenging Task?

  • Issues in Assessment and Early Warning: The absence of accurate and dependable water-related data is a prevailing problem. Additionally, wherever data is available, it is compartmentalised. This limits sharing horizontally and vertically along the entire data chain. 
  • Drought is different from other natural disasters like cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis due to several factors:
    • No Universal Definition: There isn’t a universally accepted definition that can adequately capture its intricate nature. 
    • Identifying Start and End of a Drought Episode: Identifying the onset and conclusion of a drought episode is challenging due to its gradual emergence, quiet progression, and slow dissipation. In India, it’s generally linked with the monsoon season
    • Absence of Parameters: No indicator or index exists that can reliably predict the arrival and severity of a drought event or foresee its potential consequences. 
    • Wide Geographical Expanse: Droughts often cover extensive geographical areas, surpassing the scope of many other natural calamities, making effective response considerably more difficult. 
    • Quantification of Impact: The impacts of droughts are mainly non-structural and tough to quantify. These include ecological damage, disruption of socio-economic foundations within communities, and long-term health effects due to malnutrition, among others. 

Read: Drought management & Flash droughts

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