Diminishing monsoon due to climate change expanding drought-prone areas in Maharashtra: Study

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Mumbai, 8th July 2022: The decreasing rains during monsoon, which are seen as a result of climate change seem to be ringing a warning bell for the Latur district in Maharashtra. A recent study reveals that both- during the pre-and post-monsoon seasons there has been a significant increase in the area classified as high, very high, or severe drought-prone.


As a result, the water bodies in the area have continued to diminish during the pre-monsoon season. The study also notes a constant decline in the region’s ability to use water for irrigation and other purposes during the pre-monsoon season.


Beyond Latur, authors of the study have warned that other districts in Marathwada and parts of north Maharashtra, such as Beed, Osmanabad, Jalna, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Nanded, and Dhule, are vulnerable as well, with agrarian communities susceptible to catastrophic effects of droughts on various crops such as sorghum, pearl millet, sugarcane, and others.


The study, Monitoring drought pattern for pre- and post-monsoon seasons in a semi-arid region of western India, documented the increasing drought condition in Latur district from 1996 to 2016 using satellite data across several parameters, including vegetation and water. The study also developed a list of recommendations, including giving forecasting and monitoring the extent of drought-rising priority. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Springer-Nature journal ‘Environmental Monitoring and Assessment’ recently.


“The main reason behind frequent droughts and the rising area under drought in Latur is climate change induced declining monsoon rain in the region,” said Dr. Atiqur Rahman, corresponding author of the study and Professor at Department of Geography, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, adding that the availability of water for irrigation and other activities during the pre-monsoon season is declining consistently in the region.


Latur region experiences droughts after every 8-9 years resulting in a shortage of water and reducing agricultural activities. More than 60 % of these people indulge in agriculture in Latur making droughts a serious issue, Dr Rahman said, adding, “There is an immediate need for the State and Centre to take up drought mitigation planning as a matter of national interest as countless lives are at stake.”


The area under very high drought (measured by the temperature condition index, or TCI, which is used to analyse the stress brought on by temperature difference) increased from 58 to 664 sq. km. (1045%) for the pre-monsoon season and from 44 to 489 sq. km. (1009%) for the post-monsoon season between 1996 and 2016. While this is happening, the area affected by extremely high drought has grown from 1269 to 1788 sq. km for the post-monsoon season and from 2140 to 3964 sq. km for the pre-monsoon season, according to the Vegetation Condition Index, or VCI, which is used to evaluate vegetation health as compared to historical trends.


“Due to climate change and rainfall shortages, droughts have a long history in the Latur district and happen frequently. There are four different categories of drought throughout the entire region: low, moderate, high, and severe. Although there were few areas with high drought grades in 1996, the number of drought-affected areas has grown over time,” said Shahfahad, lead author of the study, adding, “More than half of the territory is under drought now.”

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Authors have conducted the study from different fields and institutes. Apart from Prof. Rahman and Shahfahad, others authors include Dr Swapan Talukdar, Rayees Ali and Mohd Waseem Naikoo from Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof. Yuei‑An Liou and Dr Kim‑Anh Nguyen from National Central University, Taiwan, Dr Abu Reza Md. Towfiqul Islam from Begum Rokeya University, Bangladesh and Dr Javed Mallick from King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia.


Independent experts issued a warning that these conditions are likely to worsen in many parts of the global south. “As you get more global warming, you should see an increase in the extremes of the hydrological cycle – droughts and floods and heavy precipitation,” said Prof. James Hansen, American adjunct professor directing the Program on Climate Science, Columbia University.


Over the past month (June 1 to July 1 2022) Latur has received 30% excess rainfall but forecasts by the weather bureau indicate that a drop in active rainfall is expected through the rest of the season. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), if a region experiences rainfall less than 10% of the normal rainfall in India, it is a drought-prone region. The historical rainfall data of Latur district shows that it experiences less than 10% rainfall a year twice every 5 years. Severe droughts in 2015-16 and 2016-2017 have had grave consequences on agriculture and various domesticated animals.



Key Recommendations from the study


1, The study recommends that researchers and planners must prioritize monitoring and forecasting draughts to reduce the losses caused due to their frequent occurrences.


2. The state and union government has to think about drought mitigation in the region as this is a matter of national interest.

3. There is an urgent need of developing a strong integrated drought monitoring tool to mitigate the negative effects of drought on agricultural and water resources in India’s north-eastern area.

4. The state government needs to focus on the identification and management of existing water bodies at block and village levels. Further, canal irrigation may be promoted in the region for dealing with the scarcity of water for irrigation.

वातावरणीय बदलांमुळे कमी होत जाणाऱ्या मान्सूनच्या पावसामुळे महाराष्ट्रातील दुष्काळ-प्रवण क्षेत्रांमध्ये वाढ: अभ्यास