Drought is a prolonged, abnormally dry period when there is not enough water for users’ normal needs. Drought is not simply low rainfall; meteorologists monitor the extent and severity of drought in terms of rainfall deficiencies. Agriculturalists rate the impact on primary industries, hydrologists compare ground water levels, and sociologists define it on social expectations and perceptions.
Drought is a temporary feature caused by variance in the usual climate of the region. It occurs in almost all climatic regimes, but with higher frequency and probability in the arid and semi-arid regions. History has it that way back to the time of prophet Hazrat Dawood (A.S.) when, it is said, people in the Makran area of now Pakistan entombed themselves to avoid food shortage. That might have been first drought in our region.
Recently the provinces of Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab have been severely affected due to prolonged dry spells for the last 3 years. It is estimated that millions of people and millions of heads of livestock have been affected. The effects and impact of drought in fragile eco-systems assume even serious proportions due to misuse of marginal areas and unwise land use practices and overexploitation of natural resources. Adverse effects of drought on human being last for many years.
During climate extremes, agriculture suffers first and most severely and eventually everyone feels the impact. Drought disrupts cropping programs, reduces breeding stock, and threatens farming patterns. Results: declining productivity affects the national economy and more poverty.
Poverty and migration are the social aspects of drought. Drought force people, mostly poor living in rural areas, to leave their homes in search of a better life.
The United Nations General Assembly, in 1994, designated June 17 as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. This year marked a decade since the Convention’s implementation.
The risk of serious environmental damage, particularly through vegetation loss and soil erosion, has long-term implications for the sustainability of our agricultural industries. Water quality suffers, and toxic outbreaks may occur; plants and animals are also threatened. Bushfires and dust storms often increase during dry times. Pakistan is predominantly arid with low rainfall. About 80 per cent of the country is arid and semi-arid, nearly 12 per cent is sub-humid and the other 8 per cent is humid. The major land uses are agriculture (23 per cent), rangelands (32 per cent), barren land (31 per cent), forests (4.8 per cent), water bodies (1 per cent) and 8 per cent is unclassified and 0.16 percent comes under urban areas. Of the total area only 20 per cent is potentially good for exhaustive agriculture and 62 per cent is primarily used for livestock grazing.
Droughts are of different kinds. Some droughts are long-lived; some are short and intense, causing significant damage. Some can be localised while other parts of the country enjoy bountiful rain. Generally speaking, drought can be categorised in three forms: Meteorological drought (when there is a prolonged period with below average precipitation), Agricultural drought (when there is insufficient moisture for average crop or range production) and Hydrologic drought that is brought about when the water reserves available in sources such as aquifers, lakes, and reservoirs falls below the statistical average.
Many regions are volunerable to drought in Pakistan. Learning how to live with that, better management and being prepared might avert some of the damage.