Amid a prolonged dry spell of monsoon rainfall, the Karnataka government has written to the Central government to reevaluate the parameters for drought declaration, as the existing “one-size-fits-all approach” did little to capture the problems faced in 14 agro-climatic regions of the state.
In a letter to Union Minister for Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar, state Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has urged the Centre to develop region-specific criteria that considered local ecological factors, water availability and agricultural practices to declare drought.
The Manual for Drought Management of the Centre “integrates meteorological, agricultural and hydrological drought”, which did not capture the agricultural distress in rural areas. Though rainfall deficit can recover due to strong monsoon pressure systems in the last few weeks of monsoons, scanty rainfall during the first half of the sowing season starting in June has an impact on agriculture and triggers agriculture drought, the letter said.
Siddaramaiah also urged the Centre to redefine dry spells from the existing three to four-week period to lower than two weeks of consecutive dry spells. “The manual rigidly defines dry spells assuming its impact on agriculture would be similar everywhere and in all time scales. Factors like type of soil, type of crop, temperatures and vegetative state equally matter,” due to which even a dry spell of two weeks can lead to irreversible crop damage.
The early declaration of drought is made difficult due to conditions imposed in the manual which mandates that “sowing has to be completed and a declaration has to be given by the State Governments that no further sowing is expected,” the letter said, adding it prevented the state government from undertaking immediate relief and mitigation measures.
“While it is understandable that the norms for drought declaration are established to ensure accurate assessments and appropriate allocation of resources, it is essential to recognise that each and the regions within the state have their unique challenges and requirements. The current situation demands a more flexible approach to the existing norms,” the letter added.