The Human Impact

India’s drought: A natural calamity or a man-made one?

It’s that “Will they? Won’t they?” time of year in India. The annual monsoon season is due and – given that the country’s mostly rain-fed agriculture makes up 15 percent of gross domestic product, with hundreds of millions of Indians dependent on it – these rains are a serious business.

Before its onset in June, right through the end of the season in September, we track the monsoon’s trajectory, pore over data, question forecasters, speak to pundits – all in hope of getting an accurate analysis on whether India will receive timely and adequate rainfall.

This year, initial forecasts predict an average amount of rainfall.

However, for some states like India’s drought-hit western regionof Maharashtra, even if the rains are plentiful, it won’t solve itswater crisis.

In these parched farmlands, where thousands of villages have little drinking water or fodder for cattle, it is not the lack of rain that is to blame, say activists and commentators, but the poor management of scarce water, resulting in what they are calling a man-made drought.

POOR WATER MANAGEMENT

South Asia is one of the world’s most water-stressed, yet while the population is adding an extra 25 million people a year, the region’s per capita water availability has dropped by 70 percent since 1950, says the Asian Development Bank.

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India’s western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region’s empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

“He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

Solutions for a hungry world

By 2050, experts say, the planet will need at least 70 percent more food than it does today as its population soars, cities sprawl and climate change takes its toll. Will it be possible?

That’s a question AlertNet put to hunger fighters worldwide for a special multimedia report out today probing the future of food. Their answer: The planet can feed itself – but only if two “revolutions” happen, and happen soon.

The first would involve sweeping changes to entrenched policies and practices that are, in the end, unsustainable. Policies such as spending trillions on agriculture and fuel subsidies. And practices such as eating so much meat and dairy.

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