300 million people affected in different parts of India, by one of the most severe droughts in recent time, is not just a mere headline staring at us when we open the newspaper but a foreboding of the critical times to come. The change in climate is now not slow but resulting in severe climatic outcomes at regular intervals.
The shortfall in the rains, plummeting water reserves, chronic lack of any water management infrastructure and high dependency on seasonal monsoon rains for water has crippled the authorities who are now forced to face the wrath of the common man in the Indian village.
The villagers especially in the state of Maharashtra and neighbouring regions have been walking in the scorching sun for miles to quench their thirst and transport some water for their daily chores. Life is a fight each morning. Soaring temperatures and no water for irrigation have left crops dying and also impacting the purse of the farmer bearing the burden of debt and lack of infrastructure. The use of trains to transport water to drought ravaged interiors is still not sufficient.
Recently in 2015 around 190 countries met in Paris to construct a plan of action to combat the devastating effects and tragic events arising from climate change. But many have cited that the Paris accord failed to keep in mind the interest of the developing nations especially in south Asia and the continent of Africa where there are so many countries with agrarian economies dependent on Climate and Rains. Most of the population in these regions live below the poverty line.
Sustainable countermeasures ’
Use of water trains, drought relief programmes and awareness campaigns on how to judiciously use the ground water are short measures which might help the common man now but there is an urgent need to implement long term sustainable measures. With the alarming frequency of the severe droughts - water conservation methods, infrastructure and introduction of the cultivating crops which require less water to grow would be a great start. The practice is already in use in some parts of the country like in Odisha where farmers use a variety of rice which is drought resistant so that there is no hole in their purse at the end of the season. Use of technology like sprinkler irrigation and other micro irrigation projects can be great way to ensure a good reap of crops without affecting the water table in the region. But these methods do require initial capital money as investment which often deters the farmers to invest in them. Support from authorities, state governments, bank loan assistance can be used to address the issue.
It has often been reported in media that funds earmarked by centre government are not utilized to set up water management projects or drinking water projects especially in drought prone states. There is an urgent need on their part to shift from reactive to a proactive approach to save the interest of the farmers.