Karnataka CM urges Centre to make amendments to drought manual

Context: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has written to the Union government to bring changes to the Manual for Drought Management, 2016 (updated in 2020) for the declaration of drought by the States. 

Rationale and objectives: Drought declaration’ signifies the beginning of Government response to conditions representing a drought situation.

Indices & Parameters

Five categories of indices are recommended for developing a monitoring matrix for drought. The five categories of indices are Rainfall, Vegetation, Water, Crop and others.

  • The first step is to look at two mandatory indicatorsrainfall deviation and dry spell. Depending on these, the manual specifies various situations that may or may not be considered a drought trigger.
  • The second step is to look at four impact indicatorsagriculture, vegetation indices based on remote sensing, soil moisture, and hydrology. The manual States that States may consider any three of the four types of the Impact Indicators for assessment of drought and make a judgement. If all three chosen indicators are in the ‘severe’ category, it amounts to severe drought; and if two of the three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ class, it amounts to moderate drought.
  • The third step comes in after both previous triggers have been set off. In that event, “States will conduct sample survey for ground truthing in order to make a final determination of drought. The finding of field verification exercise will be the final basis for judging the intensity of drought as ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’.”
  • Once a drought is determined, the state government needs to issue a notification specifying the geographical extent. The notification is valid for six months, unless de-notified earlier.

Challenges in Drought declaration:

  • Strict parameters – Various experts have opined that the parameters are so strict that it becomes very difficult to implement them and declare droughts.
  • One size fits all approach – There indices do not take regional variations into account. It is important to develop region specific criteria that consider local ecological factors, water availability, and agricultural practices.
  • Traditional practices – Many States still continue to rely on the traditional practice such as the annewari/ paisewari/ girdawari systems of eye estimation and crop cutting experiments.
  • Time taken to declare droughts – To estimate the losses in crops one has to wiat till the season end. For e.g, estimates for kharif crops are generally available by December or after, whereas those for rabi crops are available not before March. This delays the timely intervention.
  • Support from centre – Moderate drought is no longer eligible for relief funds from the Centre. The 2016 manual makes it clear that only if the calamity is of “severe nature” can the state governments submit a memorandum for financial assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund. For mild and moderate droughts, the states have to shell out their own funds. 
Source: The Hindu

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