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Drought Declaration Norms

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Disaster management


Source: DTE

 Context: Amid an extended dry period of monsoon rain, Karnataka has written to the Central government, urging a reevaluation of drought declaration norms.


What are Droughts?

Drought is defined as a deficiency in rainfall/precipitation over an extended period, causing adverse impacts on vegetation, animals, and people. There is no single, legally accepted definition of drought in India, with states having their own criteria.

  • 74% of India’s districts are vulnerable to extreme drought situations


Process of Drought Declaration in India:

StepsProcess Description
State Governments have the authority to declare drought-affected regions.
1The first step involves examining two mandatory indicators:

·        Rainfall deviation

·        Dry spell

2The second step involves evaluating four impact indicators: agriculture, vegetation indices (remote sensing), soil moisture, and hydrology. States may choose any three of the four impact indicators (one from each) to assess drought intensity and categorize it as severe or moderate.
3If all three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘severe’ category, it indicates severe drought. If two of the three chosen impact indicators are in the ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ category, it indicates moderate drought.
4After the previous triggers are set off, States conduct a sample survey on the ground to determine the final intensity of drought. Field verification findings determine if the drought is ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’.
5Once the intensity of the drought is determined, the state government issues a notification specifying the geographical extent of the drought-affected area. The notification is valid for six months unless de-notified earlier.


Issues with the Drought Declaration process in India:

One-Size-Fits-All ApproachThe existing norms for drought declaration follow a uniform approach without considering the diverse challenges faced in different agro-climatic regions of the state.
Lack of Local Ecological FactorsThe current criteria do not account for local ecological factors, water availability, and agricultural practices, which vary across regions and impact drought severity.
Inadequate Capturing of DistressThe Manual for Drought Management integrates meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological aspects but fails to adequately address agricultural distress in rural areas.
Rainfall Deficit RecoveryThe manual’s focus on rainfall deficit recovery overlooks the impact of scanty rainfall during the initial sowing season, causing agricultural damage and triggering drought.
Rigid Definition of Dry SpellsThe existing three to four-week dry spell definition does not consider variations in soil type, crop variety, temperatures, and vegetative state that influence crop damage.



  • Karnataka has proposed region-specific criteria that take into account local ecological factors, water availability, and agricultural practices for declaring drought.
  • Redefining dry spells from the current three to four weeks to less than two weeks of consecutive dry spells.
  • Factors such as soil type, crop variety, temperatures, and vegetative state must be considered, as even a two-week dry spell can lead to irreversible crop damage.



There must be a balance between the need for accurate assessments and resource allocation, and the need for a flexible approach to address unique challenges and requirements in different regions within the state.


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The interlinking of rivers can provide viable solutions to the multi-dimensional inter-related problems of droughts, floods, and interrupting navigation. Critically examine. (UPSC 2020)