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close this bookDisaster Preparedness - 2nd Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1994, 66 p.)
close this folderPART 3 - Implementing disaster preparedness plans
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPromote the plan at the national level
View the documentEstablish a reliable information base
View the documentDefine appropriate institutional structures
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View the documentCASE STUDY
View the documentSUMMARY


Drought Preparedness and Mitigation - The Approach in India in 1987

India is located between Latitudes 3 and 8 degrees N and longitudes 88 and 97 degrees E. The Tropic of Cancer passes through the middle of the country. Sixty eight percent of the country receives precipitation less than 1125 mm per year, which limits agricultural potential even in normal years. Most of the rain (73%) falls in the monsoon season from June to September.

The drought of 1987

Failure of the monsoon brought prolonged dry spells in western India and severely affected agricultural production, causing the fourth serious drought disaster in this century. Crops were damaged in an area of 59 million ha spread over 267 districts and 22 states. Of the 285 million persons affected by the drought, nearly 92 million belonged to vulnerable groups including subsistence farmers and agricultural laborers. The previous worst drought occurred in 1965 when India had to import grain to mitigate the resulting famine.

Organizational response: In mid-July of 1987, when it appeared that drought conditions were likely to have a serious impact on agriculture, the Government of India (GOI) took initiative to mitigate the impacts rather than wait for requests for assistance. A Committee of Secretaries on Drought was set up and an Action Plan was developed. The plan included:

· preparation of water budgets to optimize use of reservoirs and ground water sources

· contingency plans to minimize crop losses

· provision of drinking water to the affected populations

· strengthening the food delivery system

· public health measures including providing supplementary nutrition for the vulnerable children

· contingencies for providing adequate fodder and nutrients for the livestock.

The implementation of the drought relief programs was monitored on almost a daily basis by a Crisis Management Group under the Central Relief Commissioner. State level relief committees directed the implementation of projects and coordinated the appropriate departments.

Agriculture: The following steps were undertaken to improve agricultural prospects in drought affected areas and kept crop losses to a minimum. The 1987 harvest was only 3.5% less than the previous year:

1. A timely supply of wheat seeds was provided to Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir for the Rabi harvest (the winter crop season) to make up for the amount lost during the Kharif (the first crop season).

2. Obtaining credit was facilitated through flexible lending by the National bank for Agricultural and Rural Development.

3. The Rural Electrification Corporation connected 150,000 water pumps.

4. Generation of power was improved for local power plants and uninterrupted supply of power was provided to the agricultural sector for 8-10 hours per day. Other fuels were also supplied.

5. Kits for vegetable production were supplied.

Employment Generation: The most immediate impact of the drought was on the incomes of rural families. Providing employment opportunities to these affected persons became a leading priority. Thus, 52% of the drought relief funds went to employment generation, mainly for jobs relating to drought mitigation. Part of the wages were paid in food grains to supplement the diets of families of the workers.

Labor efforts were directed toward construction of ponds, tubewells, field channels and roads as well as soil conservation and water harvesting. To improve future agricultural production, the government launched 54 major irrigation projects in 14 drought affected states to create an additional 133,000 ha of irrigated land.

Information Campaign: A widescale information campaign was undertaken by the various press, information ministries and radio agencies to create public awareness regarding the impact of drought and the relief measures undertaken. Special programs to improve knowledge of drought mitigation were also broadcast. Active steps were taken to enlist volunteers to help with the relief programs. For example, volunteers distributed fodder and drinking water in the affected areas.

Strengthening institutional mechanisms: Due to the severity of the drought of 1987, the drought affected states had to seek financial assistance from the GOI to cope with the effects. Decisions regarding the use of the money took between 30 and 45 days. Subsequent to the drought, a Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) was established for every state. The States draw on the funds to meet immediate requirements for disaster relief, and rehabilitation and reconstruction following disasters. The un-utilized balance each year is put toward the following year for five years after which the residual funds become available as development resources.

Emerging perspectives

1. The Indian experience bears witness to the effectiveness of formulating development and preparedness policies to meet predictable natural disasters. A comparison of the 1965 and 1987 droughts show that inputs resulting from development in the interim years assisted in avoiding extreme destitution in 1987 that occurred in 1965. This was the case despite the fact that the 1987 drought was more severe and affected twice the number of districts and people. Development inputs included: early warning systems, clear policy frameworks and institutional mechanisms for administering relief programs, an effective food delivery system, community mobilization, innovative measures by field agencies and advancements in agriculture, irrigation and food security.

2. When relief measures are recognized as being inevitable, adequate resources should be programmed at the operational level to assure timely response. With resources now programmed at the state level through the CRF, response should be more rapid and effective.

3. Employment generation in a period of drought is the basic means of providing income and purchasing power to those sections of society which have lost normal means of subsistence. The ever-changing economic milieu of a society, however, complicates the problems of assessment of the employment needs in different areas. Sections of the rural population shift dependence from farm income to other avenues of income due to economic development and perhaps the occurrence of the drought itself. Generation of skills for drought prone populations, through participation in national development activities such as adult literacy and social awareness programs, is needed to assist the vulnerable groups to switch to new occupations as economic development proceeds.

4. The experience of 1987 highlighted the importance of information dissemination relating to drought and relief measures. The public satisfaction with relief measures depends largely on the perception of the responsiveness of the administration both in quality and quantity. Also highlighted were the importance of nongovernmental input and use of volunteers for implementing and monitoring relief operations. Mechanisms to facilitate this input should be institutionalized.

Source: B. Narisimhan, Management of Drought: An Indian Approach in 1987, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, New Delhi.