Drought management and prevention in pakistan
Drought, in general, means dryness due to lack of precipitation over an extended period of time in a specific area. Drought has the greatest potential impact, as compared to other major disasters like floods, tropical cyclones, earthquakes, etc. on Agriculture crops, as the latter are mostly of short duration and geographically limited, while drought, by contrast, affects large geographical areas often covering the whole of the countries or even parts of continents.
Droughts are some of the most complex natural disasters, and are difficult to predict and mitigate due to a number of factors involved, lack of precise information on many drought-related issues, difficulties in defining a drought (its start, end and magnitude), etc. The spatial and temporal characterization and assessment of a drought are only meaning full if they are integrated with the socioeconomic indicators. The lack of integrating socioeconomics with the hydrometeorology of droughts is one major limitation of the work already done in this area. The other important aspect is that a drought must be seen from the end of impacts and mitigation measures while developing drought- characterization- assessment approaches.
Pakistan has a long latitudinal extent and the rainfall variability during different seasons is considerably high. The climate of the country in its lower southern half is arid and hyper-arid while the northern half of country lies between semi arid to very humid. Some regions of the country in each season, remain drastically dry and area always vulnerable to drought. If subsequent seasons fail to generate significant precipitation, the drought conditions then are sure to take the vulnerable regions in the grip. All the provinces of Pakistan have a history of facing major droughts in the past.
The drought of 1998-2002 is considered worst in previous 50 years in Pakistan. The drought started in 1997, gained intensity in 1998 and reached its peak in 2000 till 2001 and thus gradually weakened in 2002. The extreme drought also affected much of India and Afghanistan. The drought of 2004 till 2005, gripped the lower parts of Pakistan mainly Balochistan and Sindh, However no damage or death was reported during the period possibly due to 2003â€™s flooding. A week drought was also occur during the year 2009 and 2010.
Recent Drought in Tharparker
Tharparkar desert in Sindh is the largest desert of Pakistan and the eighteenth largest in the world with an area of 22,000 square kilometers. The population of Tharparkar is 1.5 million. The land in Tharparkar is highly fertile but unfortunately most of it is desert, so that production of crops depends on rains during summer. Rain fall from mid-June to mid-August each year. For the last ten years there has been drought conditions in Tharparkar due to which 50 percent of the overall population migrated to barrage areas to find food, because during droughts it becomes hard for them to even find water to drink, leave alone for growing crops. Due to this drought, there have been problems of diseases in animals, first with peacocks and then with sheep â€” the majority of these animals died.
What Causes Drought?
Lack of rainfall (or precipitation):Droughts can occur when there is lack of â€˜expectedâ€™ precipitation (rain and snow). Some regions can go for months without any rain, and that would be 'normal' for them. Farmers plant in anticipation of rains and so when the rains do not come, and irrigation infrastructure is absent, agricultural drought occurs.
Surface water flow: Some regions are also well distributed with surface water (streams and rivers) that have their sources from far away mountains and watersheds. These surface waters may dry out if the flow from their sources upstream is affected. Hydro-electric dams and irrigation systems are some of the economic activities that can reduce the amount of water flowing to other areas downstream.
Human factors: Forests (trees) play a key role in the water cycle, as they help reduce evaporation, store water and also contribute to atmospheric moisture in the form of transpiration. This means, cutting down trees (deforestation) in the name of economics, will expose surface water to more evaporation. It will also reduce the ability of the ground to hold water and make it easier for desertification to occur. It can set off drying conditions, especially for smaller water bodies. Cutting down trees is known to reduce a forestâ€™s watershed potential.
Global warming: Even though some people do not accept that the average temperature of the earth has risen, it is on record that human actions have contributed to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a result, there are warmer temperatures, often resulting in more dryness and bush fires. These conditions also tend to speed up drought conditions.
Economic Impact of Droughts:
Agriculture is main livelihood of about 70% population of the country. Due to direct relationship between agriculture and water scarcity/drought, drought has economic impact which often involve losing money either by individuals or families, businesses and governments. Here are some examples of economic impact resulting from droughts:
Benefits of land leveling: Effective land leveling reduces the work in crop establishment and crop management, and increases the yield and quality.
Higher yield: Good field leveling increases the crop yield considerably.
Better weed control: Land leveling increases yield to a large extend because it improves weed control. Improved water coverage from better land leveling reduces weeds by up to 40%. This reduction in weeds results in less time for crop weeding.
Larger farming area: Good land leveling enables larger fields. Which increase the farming area and improve operational efficiency. Increasing field sizes from 0.1 hectare to 0.5 hectare increases the farming area by between 5% and 7%. This increase in farming area gives the farmer the option to reshape the farming area and can reduce operating times by 10% to 15%.
Faster seeding/less work: Leveling reduces the time needed for transplanting and for direct seeding. Land leveling provides greater opportunity to use direct seeding
Better use of water: In leveled land water reached in equal proportion to each plant similarly same dose of fertilizer reaches to each plant. Therefore water use efficiency of plants increase ultimate growth and development.
- Farmers will have to spend more money to irrigate the crops and provide water for livestock on animal farms and ranches. They have to spend money to drill new wells or buy water in tankers from faraway places.
- Low crop yield means farmers lose a lot of money, farm workers have to take pay cuts and some may even have to be laid off.
- Businesses and industries that manufacture farm equipment and resources lose money because farmers do not have the money to buy from them.
- Less or no rains mean dryer conditions and more bush fires. Farms are destroyed, properties are razed down, forests and trees are burned and people lose money in this way. Government also need to spend more resources to fight fires and send emergency supplies to the most needed places.
- Businesses spend more on electric generators or close production if hydro-energy companies operate below capacity. Energy industries also lose money because they cannot meet the energy demand of the region. The government again gets less tax money because people spend less.
Drought mitigation plan should have the following three primary components:
- Monitoring & early-warning system
- Risk impact-assessment and mitigation.
- Post-disaster needs.
The second philosophy is generally the most feasible. Because land leveling is expensive and large earth movements may leave significant areas of the field without fertile top soil, this second philosophy is also generally the most economic approach.
A field leveled to high standards is generally more easily irrigated than one where undulations require special attention.
Monitoring & early warning system
Drought is the consequence of a natural reduction in the amount of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more. Other climatic factors (such as high temperatures, high winds and low relative humidity) are often associated with it in many regions of the world and can significantly aggravate the severity of the event. In Pakistan, different regions are vulnerable to drought during each season therefore authentic early warning seasonal forecasts are required to make reliable risk-assessments. Unfortunately, no country over the globe is yet self-sufficient in producing authentic and really accurate forecasts. Pakistan Meteorological Department has a good data-collection system for developing a sound early-warning system for ascertaining the drought conditions. Meteorological data is important, but represents only a part of a comprehensive monitoring system. Physical indicators (e.g. ground water and stream flow) must also be monitored to reflect the impacts of drought on agriculture, households, industry, and energy production and on water users. Helpful technology includes soil-moisture sensors, automated weather- stations, and satellite imageries, such as digital data obtained from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), which is transmitted from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Satellites. Satellite data is useful in
indicting areas where deficiencies of moisture are affecting vegetation growth.
Risk impact-assessments and mitigation:
Once the areas are declared to be drought stricken a Risk-Assessment Committee (RAC) should be formulated. Its responsibility should be to assess sectors, population groups, ecosystems that are most at risk and identify appropriate and reasonable mitigation measures, to address these risks. The members of RAC and that of its working committee, formulated under the aegis of the RAC, should be composed of technical specialists representing each of the sectors, groups or ecosystems. The overall responsibility of RAC would be to make recommendations to the Disaster-cell, for taking mitigation actions.
Post Disaster Needs:
The Government must keep the following measures in view, so as to meet the post disaster needs, which inevitably appear as consequences of a drought:-
- Measures to maintain food-security
- Food subsidies
- General food distribution
- Special programmes for livestock and
pastoralistsComplementary water and health programmes
- Price stabilization
Suggestions and Recommendations:
Some suggestions and recommendations to mitigate the disasters are given below:-
Water conservation and storage: Water is precious and a scarce commodity everywhere in the world and humans need to use water wisely as such. Even if there is water available, it is important because the practice makes us cope better when there is a shortage.
Anthropogenic activities: Deforestation, loss of vegetation due to overgrazing, etc., need to be curbed by imposing legal bindings on such activities.
Education: It is important that each of us learn about how droughts occur and how they affect us. This empowers us to think of solutions and other things we can do if we find ourselves in a drought. The governments (or authorities) also need to educate the public periodically about their environment, climate, weather and some natural disasters that can happen.The government also needs to understand the terrain of the region and the likelihood of a drought, so that there are no surprises if they happen.
Stop pollution: Taking measures to stop all forms of water pollution is important, because on the onset of droughts, humans resort to surface water such as streams and lakes and the like. If those are in great condition, humans can depend on them for drinking and irrigation until things improve. If they are all polluted or contaminated and unsafe for any kind of use, it makes the problem even more distressing.