Unveiling Regional Initiatives: South Asia Gears Up for Drought Management in 2024

A Regional Consultation Workshop on Drought Risk Management and Mitigation was held from January 22-24, 2024, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Drought conditions in South Asia have emerged as a complex challenge, impacting vital sectors such as agriculture, water resources, livelihoods, and energy generation. The vulnerability of countries in the region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, to various types of droughts is exacerbated by erratic rainfall patterns and prolonged dry spells. This has led to heightened concerns over food insecurity, water scarcity, and the plight of small-scale farmers grappling with crop failures, ultimately contributing to poverty and rural migration. Addressing the multifaceted impacts of drought in South Asia necessitates collaborative efforts across sectors and regional cooperation.

In a significant stride toward tackling this challenge, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in collaboration with, the Global Water Partnership (GWP), the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), organized a pivotal Regional Consultation Workshop on Drought Risk Management and Mitigation from January 22-24, 2024, in Bangkok, Thailand.

The primary objective of the workshop was to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive regional framework for drought management across South Asian countries. The initiative aims to enhance resilience to drought events by producing an inventory of national drought management policies and strategies, incorporating impact data from past and present national drought management plans, policies, and practices. Furthermore, lessons learned from drought mitigation planning strategies and management from other regions on drought vulnerability management will be analyzed which are providing valuable insights for the development of a robust regional drought management strategy for South Asia.

This workshop also was part of the UNCCD secretariat’s effort to deliver various COP decisions addressing drought and capacity development, such as Decision 2 and Decision 23 of COP.15. It also targeted National Focal Points (NFPs) and nominated experts/specialists from selected South Asian countries. It focused on building capacities for drought mitigation and resilience, enhancing awareness, and promoting the interactive use of tools supporting drought management, such as the UNCCD Drought Toolbox.

Another key element of the workshop was to kick start the design process of the Community of Learning and Practice in Asia (CLP-Asia). The CLP-Asia pertains to national focal points, scientists, and other professionals who are interested in peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and want to build their technical capacity on drought management in Asia. Participants were invited to draft the objectives of the CLP-Asia through a co-design exercise aiming to identify and cluster learning priorities. More about the CLP-Asia can be found here.

As part of GWP’s contribution, Mr. Lal Induruwage, Regional Coordinator of GWP SAS, delivered a presentation on the South Asia Drought Monitoring System and moderated the session for NFPs to present their respective national drought policies, plans and practices. Mr. Laurent-Charles Tremblay-Levesque, IWRM and Knowledge Management Specialist at GWPO, delivered a presentation on redefining socio-hydrological resilience in the context of drought management and co-moderated the session on the CLP-Asia. Mr. Sheikh Muhamad Awais, Country Coordinator of the GWP Pakistan/Pakistan Water Partnership attended the workshop as representative of civil society.

This consultation workshop served as a catalyst for collective action and innovation in drought risk management and mitigation for South Asia. By fostering collaboration, building capacity, and formulating strategic frameworks, the workshop has laid a solid foundation for sustainable development and resilience-building initiatives that will shape the region's response to drought challenges in years to come.