A drought is generally defined as a period of below-average precipitation in a given region, resulting in prolonged shortages in the water supply. A drought can last for months or years and can have a substantial impact on the environment, ecosystem, and agriculture of the affected region. Sindh is experiencing an increase in the frequency and severity of drought due to a rise in temperatures and a decrease in the amount of rainfall during the summer season. It is rapidly becoming one of the worst disasters in Pakistan as a result of the drought in Sindh. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, “severe to extreme drought-like conditions” have emerged over most of southern Pakistan. Sindh faces moderate to severe drought conditions in 8 districts, the drought hazard analysis showed that the Qambar Shahdad Kot, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Sanghar, Khairpur, Sukkur, Tharparkar, and Umerkot are exposed to very severe drought hazard class. The Sindh province is historically susceptible to drought. History shows major droughts in the distant past, with more recent dry periods still within living memory. Sindh faced the worst drought situation in 1871, 1881, 1899, 1931, 1942, 1999, 2003, 2020,2021, and 2022.
The 1999 drought persisted till the year 2002. Around 1.4 million people, 5.6 million cattle head, and 12.5 million acres of the cropped area were affected. The groundwater depleted to 30-40 feet, and the quality became poor. Between October 2020 and March 2021, the impact of La Niña caused below-normal rainfall in drought-prone areas of Sindh (-77.3 percent). Several districts in the province experience drought conditions which have resulted in increased food insecurity. An estimated 1.8 million people are expected to experience acute food insecurity and 530,000 people emergency levels of food insecurity from March to June 2021 in drought-affected districts, according to the Food Security Sector.
As per Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), the country overall received below-normal (-36.1%) rainfall from Oct 2020 to May 2021, the main thrust was in Sindh (-64.5%). Due to consistent deficiency of rainfall since October 2020, the moderate drought has been further intensified into severe drought, especially in southeastern Sindh. Sindh is marked by a high prevalence of food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty. In 2021, the food security situation further deteriorated because of high food and fuel prices, drought, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the month of February 2022, light to moderate rainfall was reported from most places in Pakistan. Precipitation was below normal but still fair enough for most of the drought-prone areas of Sindh. The country overall received below-normal (-21.6%) rainfall from January to April 2022. Due to a good amount of rainfall during January, the previous drought conditions became normalized. Due to an abrupt increase in daily maximum temperature, a heatwave situation was observed from mid of March to date and land surface temperature remained very high, which affected the low rainfall region i.e., Sindh, Balochistan, south Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southern Punjab (Cholistan region). Keeping in view the impact of a heatwave, a drought-like situation has emerged over most of the high-temperature regions of the country. According to climatology and the current seasonal forecast of PMD for these areas, drought conditions badly affect agriculture, water resources, and live stocks till mid of June 2022.
TYPES OF DROUGHT:
Meteorological Drought is the amount of dryness and the duration of the dry period. Atmospheric conditions that result in deficiencies of precipitation change from area to area.
Hydrological Drought is associated with the effects of periods of precipitation shortages on water supply. Water in hydrologic storage systems such as reservoirs and rivers is often used for multiple purposes such as flood control, irrigation, recreation, navigation, hydropower, and wildlife habitat. Competition for water in these storage systems escalates during drought and conflicts between water users increase significantly.
Agricultural Drought mainly affects food production and farming. Agricultural drought and precipitation shortages bring soil water deficits, reduced groundwater or reservoir levels, and so on. Deficient topsoil moisture at planting may stop germination, leading to low plant populations.
Socioeconomic Drought occurs when the demand for an economic good exceeds the supply as a result of a weather-related shortfall in the water supply.
CAUSES OF DROUGHT:
Generally, rainfall is related to the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, combined with the upward forcing of the air mass containing that water vapor. If either of these is reduced, the result is drought. Factors like Deforestation, El Nino (and other oceanic temperature cycles), the prevalence of high-pressure systems, climate change, dry winds, and global warming also are some of the main causes of drought.
THREATS POSED BY DROUGHT:
Water: During droughts, people face water problems for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, as well as for agriculture, transportation, and power generation. Droughts may lead to higher water costs, rationing, or even the decimation of important water sources like wells or nulls.
Agriculture: Droughts affect livestock and crops, which creates chaos among the people of the lower class who are fully dependent on agriculture.
Energy: Droughts can raise concerns about the reliability of electricity production from plants that require cooling water to maintain safe operations. Hydroelectric power may also become unavailable during droughts. When heat waves coincide with droughts, electricity demands can grow, compounding stress on the grid.
Public Health: Reduced flows in rivers and streams can concentrate pollutants, threatening the quality of water used for drinking and recreation. Also, drought-fueled wildfires can expose nearby communities to smoke and pollutants, which can exacerbate chronic respiratory illnesses.
All of these drought impacts can inflict extreme costs on people, businesses, and governments. From 1871 through 2022 the Sindh province experienced so many droughts, causing livestock, agriculture, and human life damages.
MITIGATION OF DROUGHT:
Drought may require safety precautions just like other weather hazards. Dry conditions often lead to brush fires or wildfires.
In communities where drought conditions exist, officials may recommend water conservation measures to restrict the use of water. These recommendations may include such procedures as watering lawns and washing cars on odd or even days of the week, at night, or on weekends. The restrictions may limit hours or prohibit the use of water, or require the use of hand watering instead of using sprinkler systems that use much more water. You should check with your local authorities or water utility for information on water restrictions that may be imposed on your area.
Conserving water is particularly important when drought strikes, but it’s also a good habit to be in at all times for environmental reasons. Try to do at least one thing each day to conserve water.
One of the easiest steps we can take to help mitigate the impacts of drought is conserving water. If we use water wisely at all times, more water will be saved.
Follow all state and local restrictions on water use, even if you have a private tubewell or water pump.
Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees.