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Long term vision needed to tackle drought

The nationwide drought is only making the lives of farmers and citizens wretched. Heat wave extending across several parts of India with temperatures crossing 40 degrees is responsible for drought. Going by the figure, as per the data tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2016, 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, the highest since 2001. This means on an average nine farmers ended their lives. According to the Central Water Commission, water availability in India’s 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29 per cent of their total storage capacity.

India should wake up and authorities concerned be it a politician, bureaucrats or general public should understand the grave situation in store for us due to the rapidly changing climatic conditions. The greatest impact of drought is seen among the weaker sections of the society. These include landless labourers, small marginal farmers and artisans like weavers.

Over 55 crore farmers and rural populations across 13 states are in the grip of drought, and it is a multi-dimensional crisis. The 2016 drought is of richer and more water-guzzling India. Drought is human-made. The oppressive drought is a continuing phenomenon, especially in the context of global warming. The ground water stored underground over hundreds of thousands of years has depleted. This classless famine makes for a crisis that is more severe and calls for solutions that are more complex. One cannot say India cannot implement the measures like above to improve its water retention. The insensitivity on the part of Governments and the business class is appalling. It is heart-rending to read about people walking miles to get a small pot of water. Right from independence the problems of drought and flood management have remained unresolved.

The shortage of power has forced the farmers to spend more on diesel consumption. On the other hand, crop diversification needs to be advertised in a well-managed manner before acceptance. In the cities, slum dwellers have been badly affected because they cannot afford to buy water from private tankers. The money-lender charges high rate of interest and the inability of farmers to repay the loan compel them to forfeit their mortgaged property. In extreme cases, they even commit suicide.

Modern technologies should be implemented to revive the agricultural economy. Water storage should be given top priority. If weather forecasting information is available beforehand to farmers, they can be trained to tackle the situation by storing grains and water in a manner so as to fight the drought situation. Skill should be developed in this field too.

What we need is the long term planning and vision to tackle drought. We need to reduce water usage in all sectors – from agriculture, urban areas to industries. The severity and intensity of famine is not about lack of rainfall; it is about the lack of planning and foresight.

Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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