The conventional attitude to a drought as a phenomenon of arid and semi-arid areas is changing because even areas with high average rainfall often face acute water scarcity. Cheerapunji, the world’s highest rainfall area, is facing severe drinking water shortages. Drought in the state of Orissa, with an average rainfall of 1100 mm, surprised many. A water scarcity condition in the Himalayan region is also not uncommon. This shows that drought is just not the scarcity or absence of rainfall, but is more related to water resource management (or mismanagement). In the case of Rajasthan, there have been 48 drought years of varied intensity since 1901. (last 102 years). A more detailed analysis reveals that only in 9 out of 102 years were none of the districts in the State affected by droughts. At the village level, the number of drought-free years will be even less. Therefore, every year some part(s) of Rajasthan is affected by drought. Despite this, the State considers drought as a transient phenomenon where shortterm relief measures are considered to be a solution.
This paper examines the range of drought management issues in the State, intends to identify existing gaps and suggest appropriate measures to reduce the impact of droughts in the future. The study is carried out as part of the regional project on drought assessment and mitigation in southwest Asia, which focuses on Afghanistan, southern Pakistan and west India. In this larger project, Rajasthan is selected as a primary target area in India. More specifically, the objectives of this particular study are:
•Examine the impact of drought on production, employment, wages and farms income •Analyze drought relief expenditure and its’ impact on the State Budget •Examine existing drought management policies and institutions in the State •Examine issues associated with drought declaration
The study is based on secondary data published by various line departments of State and Central Government, review of published research papers and books on the subject and personal interactions of the author with people in rural and urban areas. The paper is organized in eight chapters, including this Introduction. The second chapter analyses the rainfall pattern and occurrence of drought in different regions of Rajasthan. Problems arising from the definition of a drought, perceptions and response to drought, are also discussed. The next chapter explores the issues of vulnerability to drought and attempts to highlight the need for proper identification of target areas and population for efficient planning of drought relief measures in the state. Present interventions are based more on conventional perceptions, e.g., that Below Poverty Line (BPL) population and population within certain castes are the only vulnerable groups and that the Western region of the State is the most vulnerable. Drought declaration in the State is discussed in the next chapter. The following chapters deal with various impacts of droughts, management of finances and impact of drought on the state budget and State responses and management of droughts. The last chapter summarizes the study findings.
Droughts in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is the largest State of India (Fig. 1) with an area of 342,000 km2 (10.4% of the country total) and population of 56.5 million (5% of the country total) of which 76.6% is rural. The state has only 1% of India’s water resources (GOI 2004). Administratively, the State is divided into 32 districts and 241 tehsils. For historical and geographical reasons, the State remains socially and economically backward. Recurrent drought a poor resource base for economic development, the highest cost of development per capita due to aridity and very low density of population, low level of literacy (particularly among women), a very high rate of population growth and scarcity of water make the task of socio-economic development a challenge compared to...