[Answered] In the context of prevailing drought situation in Kerala, examine the solutions and steps taken by the government for fighting droughts in India.

Drought refers to a situation where the available water (through rainfall, surface water or groundwater) falls short of the demand for extended periods of time.
Kerala declared drought recently since it witnessed 36% deficit in Southwest monsoon followed by scanty rains in Northeast monsoon, creating a 69% rainfall deficit overall.

Reasons for drought: –
1. India receives major portion of precipitation from Southwest monsoon, which gets affected by dynamics such as El Nino and climate change.
2. Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on monsoon, with more than 50% of the agricultural areas being rain-fed.
3. Overuse of surface and groundwater due to perverse incentives in favour of cash crops and overuse.

Steps taken by government of India to fight drought: –

Short-term measures:
1. Rationing of water, drinking water kiosks in Kerala, prioritization of water use, water trains during Marathwada drought.
2. Provision of funds under disaster management act, and mobilizing district disaster committees.
3. Provision of additional working days (increased from 100 to 150) in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS). This provision saw increased demand in drought-hit states.
4. New scheme of farm insurance – Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). Revising norms for crop loss as well as extension of interest subvention schemes for the farmers.
5. Provision of fodder to prevent widespread cattle mortality, via fodder development programmes.

Long-term measures and solutions:
1. Better forecasting of drought by IMD through newer forecasting models using supercomputers (Coupled Forecast System v2, dynamical model)
2. Umbrella scheme Pradhan Mantri Krishee Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), which includes drip irrigation, rain water harvesting, watershed management etc.
3. Rejuvenation of local water bodies and construction of water tanks (Jalyukt Shivar in MH, Mission Kakatiya in Telangana respectively)
3. Increasing the awareness regarding water intensive crops, soil health and the judicious use of groundwater. Advance drought warnings through m-Kisan portals and SMSes.
4. Proper aquifer mapping and holistic management of all water sources by integrating the Central Water Commission and Central Ground Water Board pursuant to recommendations of Mihir Shah committee. Real-time data dissemination through satellites such as Resourcesat2.
5. Inter-linking of river basins to shift water from surplus basins to deficit basins (Polavaram project, Ken-Betwa link)
6. Feasible methods of desalination for coastal areas.
7.  Increasing research in drought-resistant Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
8. Focusing on 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recycling sewage treatment water for daily uses.
9. Newer initiatives such as National Initiative for Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) and research in dryland farming by ICAR.
10. Increasing the adoption of storm-water drains in cities, as well as increasing the green cover by properly implementing projects such as Green India Mission and funds from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
11. Increasing the research focus towards cloud-seeding and other measures to augment precipitation.
12. Incentivizing the adoption of floatovoltaics, which serve the dual purpose of curbing water evaporation and generating solar electricity with higher efficiency.

Droughts occur due to natural causes but they are aggravated due to human actions. The initiatives taken by the government are good in intention but suffer from lack of proper implementation and focus. Earnest support to the aforementioned measures can help alleviate the ill-effects of droughts to a great extent.


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