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What is drought?

Droughts can be of three kinds:-

(i) Meteorological drought: This happens when the actual rainfall in an area is significantly less than the climatological mean of that area. The country as a whole may have a normal monsoon, but different meteorological districts and sub-divisions can have below normal rainfall. The rainfall categories for smaller areas are defined by their deviation from a meteorological area's normal rainfall -
Excess: 20 per cent or more above normal
Normal: 19 per cent above normal - 19 per cent below normal
Deficient: 20 per cent below normal - 59 per cent below normal
Scanty: 60 per cent or more below normal

(ii) Hydrological drought: A marked depletion of surface water causing very low stream flow and drying of lakes, rivers and reservoirs

(iii) Agricultural drought: Inadequate soil moisture resulting in acute crop stress and fall in agricultural productivity

Earlier years of all-India drought 1987, 1979, 1972.

Drought 2001-2002

Drought and flood affected regions  

This year, 19 per cent of India's land area experienced 'moderate drought' ; 10 per cent suffered 'severe drought'

  • Rainfall in July (most important for agriculture) was 49 per cent 'deficient'. The last time this figure fell below 45 per cent was in 1911
  • When there is more than 10 per cent rainfall deficiency, and more than 20 per cent of the area of the country is under drought, the situation is called "all-India drought"
  • In 2002, rainfall deficiency was 19 per cent, and 29 per cent of India was under drought
Meterological sub-division Rainfall
(per cent below normal)
West Rajasthan
East Rajasthan


Coastal Andhra Pradesh
North Interior Karnataka
South Interior Karnataka
Coastal Karnataka
Tamil Nadu

Source: Down to Earth, January 15, 2003

Drought 2000-2001

During the drought of 2000-2001, a total of eight states have fallen foul of the rain gods. These included Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tehri Garhwal districts in Uttaranchal. Some states were in their second, or third consecutive year of drought.

Frightening figures: States hit by drought

  • Chhattisgarh: 10,252 villages in 12 of 16 districts, 9,400,000 people affected.
  • Gujarat: 12,240 villages in 22 of 25 districts, 29,100,000 people, 107,00,000 cattle.
  • Madhya Pradesh: 22,490 villages in 32 of 45 districts, 12,700,000 people, 8,570,000 cattle.
  • Orissa: 15,000 villages in 28 of 30 districts, 11900,000 people, 39900,000 cattle.
  • Rajasthan: 31,000 villages in 31 of 32 districts, 33,000,000 people, 39,900,000 cattle.
  • Himachal Pradesh: All 12 districts affected, 4600,000 people, 88,000 hectare of crop area.
  • Maharashtra: 20,000 villages in 26 of 35 districts, 45,500,000 people, 258,000 cattle.
  • Uttaranchal: One district affected.

In the 70 important water reservoirs in India, the storage position is officially described as the lowest in a decade. Ground water levels have fallen considerably in the eight drought hit states. In a number of districts, says the nodal agriculture ministry, the fall in water levels is at the rate of over 2 metres a year- this includes eight districts in Chattisgarh, 13 in Gujarat, 30 in Madhya Pradesh, 18 in Orissa and 15 in Rajasthan.

Source: Catchwater, a CSE newsletter, June 2001

Drought 1999-2000
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