Over one billion people in South Asia are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. They are predominantly poor and vulnerable to drought. In order to prepare countries better for drought, the characteristics of their occurrence need to be well understood.
With this background, a Need and Capacity Assessment Survey for the the development of a South Asian Drought Monitoring System (SA DMS) was conducted in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with the support of GWP’s Country Water Partnerships. It revealed that there is no validated system of early warning on drought that could meet the requirement for a high spatial resolution in any of the surveyed countries.
Challenges that countries face include lack of hydrological/meteorological measurement stations, missing access to satellite data, insufficient rainfall prediction capability, or shortage of well-trained staff. In the assessment, the respondents came to similar conclusions: agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to drought.
Ready for the Next Step
GWP representatives attended the WMO co-sponsored 5th South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF-5) in Pune, India, in April, which gathered climate experts from the region to pool knowledge for a seasonal forecast. The Assessment Report was presented, and GWP Programme Officer Frederik Pischke says the project is ready for the next step:
“A clear way forward for the South Asian Drought Monitoring System (SA DMS) has been agreed with IWMI and additional co-funding secured. The system will be developed for the whole South Asian region, with a few countries in a first phase as a pilot to tailor the system to national needs jointly with our partners.”
Some of the recommendations concerned the involvement of users and relevant government agencies throughout the project, as the key to the drought monitor’s success and particularly for the housing and ownership of the system nationally and regionally. The report also stated a need for clarity in the system to enhance understandability, considering the political nature of drought and the importance in data verification through on the ground observations.
The full Assessment Report is available here.
Photo: Drought is a problem in many rural areas in South Asia (GWP archive photo)