Building Drought Resilience
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had earlier this month forecasted monsoon rainfall in the country as a whole to be normal — 101% of the long period average. While predicting above normal rainfall over Central India (>106%), the department stated that the seasonal rainfall from June to September is likely to be below normal over the Northeast (<95%). In the month of May, most Indian states received normal to excess rainfall except in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and some north-eastern states. Sikkim was the only state in the region that had excess rainfall (44%) in May, while Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya crossed the average. However, the rest of the states faced huge rain deficiency with Mizoram (-63%) leading the chart. Nagaland received 136.7 mm rainfall against the normal 190.2 mm (-28%) during the month. There has been no respite for most states in the region in June as well with only Sikkim receiving above normal rainfall till June 17. Assam and Mizoram recovered a little, receiving near-normal rains but other states continue to reel under the drought like situation. Nagaland received 94.2 mm rainfall against the normal 143 mm (-34%) during the period. Among the districts of the state, only Mon received excess rainfall (48%) in the month of May. While Longleng and Mokokchung received almost normal rainfall, other districts were left dry with Dimapur leading the pack (-66%). In June too (till June 17), only Kiphire experienced excess rainfall; and near normal in Mon, Mokokchung and Wokha.
The situation looks grim as the skies have refused to open up despite the month of June having already passed the first half. Some villagers have started paddy transplantation but most of the rain-fed jhum and paddy fields are lying barren due to water shortage. The state’s Agriculture department has expressed grave concern over the drought-like situation. It is said to have affected 68,662 ha. of jhum fields in 915 villages and 525 ha. of horticultural crops in the state. If the trend continues even in July, farmers will be pushed to the edge as their main source of livelihood will be affected. It’s a matter of huge concern as the state is predominantly an agrarian economy with majority of the population still dependent on agriculture. And with commercial activities already affected by the Covid-induced lockdown, the state government has been encouraging the people to take up farming more seriously to make the state self-sufficient. Now, less rainfall could play spoilsport to this plan, affecting the farmers as well as the state’s economy. Apart from seasonal crops, water shortage has also affected fruits, vegetables, livestock, etc. The Agri and Allied department is said to have initiated plans to mitigate the situation by providing seeds and planting materials for re-sowing in affected jhum fields. But these are only short-term measures. The risk of erratic patterns in rainfall and drought is only going to increase due to climate change. This calls for the need to adopt resilience strategies for drought. Communities prone to droughts can mitigate such challenges by employing strategies like rainwater harvesting, developing new water sources, restoring forests, constructing watersheds, shifting to drought-tolerant crops, etc. Such measures will not only provide economic security but also restore the environment in the long run.