Scarcity amid plenty
Be it temple tanks or rainwater harvesting structures, South India had set the standard in water conservation. Now they are just forgotten traditions
Tnot the first time the water-rich South India is grappling with drought. In fact, certain parts of the southern peninsula, such as northern Karnataka, Telangana and the Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh, suffer from drought almost every other year. But a 2016 trend analysis of droughts between 1901 and 2004 by researchers from the Purdue University, the US, and the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur and Gandhinagar shows that their occurrence and intensity across the region are on the rise since the 1970s. Droughts have particularly become more intense and frequent after 1990, it states. An analysis by Down To Earth shows that the region has faced six severe droughts between 2004 and 2016. The current drought, which started tightening its grip over some parts of the region in 2014, appears to be the worst of all.
But why is a region that benefits from two monsoons a year and receives copious amount of rainfall becoming drought-prone? Historically, if one monsoon failed, the subsequent monsoon came to the rescue of the affected region. But this no longer seems to be the case. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka declared drought in October 2016 soon after the summer monsoon failed to yield the desired rainfall. After the failure of the northeast monsoon, Tamil Nadu joined the list and each of the other states has declared larger areas as drought-affected.
Besides, the increase in frequency of droughts in South India does not match with the performance trends of the northeast monsoon, which accounts for 30-80 per cent of the total rainfall the region receives in a year. A study published in journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology in 2012 shows that winter rains in the peninsular India have increased by 0.4 mm a day per decade between 1979 and 2010.
“Drought is a tricky term,” says S Janakarajan, economist, formerly with the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. While
In Andhra Pradesh's Goddumarri village, people have drilled over 40 borewells on a 405 sq m community land next to a temple. This is causing the dry riverbed of the Chritravati, barely 500 metres from the temple, to cave in at places AYESHA MINHAZ