What is Drought?, Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021, Impact of Drought, Cost estimates of Drought, About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Impact of severe droughts on India GDP is 2-5%: UN

In News

  • The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) recently released a report titled Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021.

What is Drought?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines drought as a period of abnormally dry weather long enough to cause a serious hydrological (water) imbalance.
  • It results from a shortfall of precipitation (rainfall) over a certain period, from the inadequate timing or the ineffectiveness of the precipitation.
  • It also results from a negative water balance due to an increased atmospheric water demand following high temperatures or strong winds.
  • Human activities resulting in water scarcity and changes in the climate system play a key role in drought intensification and propagation.

Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021

  • The report explores the current understanding of drought risk, its drivers and the ways in which people, economies and ecosystems are exposed and are vulnerable.
  • It looks into rising water stress across the globe and resulting migration and desertification.
  • The report also provides recommendations for reducing drought risks and mitigating the impacts on communities and economies.

Highlights of the report

  • Drought impacts are intensifying as the world moves towards being 2°C warmer. Climate change has already led to more intense and longer droughts in some regions of the world.
  • Projections indicate more frequent and more severe droughts over wide parts of the world, in particular most of Africa, central and South America, central Asia, southern Australia, southern Europe, Mexico and US.
  • The extent and severity of these projected droughts largely depend on the magnitude of the temperature rise.

Impact of Drought

  • Droughts affect large areas and populations, with widespread impacts on society, economy, the environment and hence sustainable development.
  • The risks resulting from droughts can increase severely, which may also affect societies and economies far from the drought event.
  • When not adequately managed, drought is one of the drivers of desertification and land degradation, increasing fragility of ecosystems, especially in rural communities.
  • Vulnerabilities of food, water and energy increase further by drought and can lead to social vulnerability and conflict.
  • Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years as increasing industrialisation and urbanisation would increase demand beyond supply.

Cost estimates of Drought

  • Drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century and this number will grow significantly unless the world gets better at managing this risk. However, global cost estimates of drought are significantly underestimated.
  • The report has estimated an annual loss of around $6.4 billion in the US due to drought and Euro 9 billion in Europe.
  • In Australia, the study found its agricultural productivity fell by 18% during 2002-2010 due to drought-like conditions.
  • The effect of severe droughts on India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at 2–5%.

Deccan case study

  • The report conducted case studies in the Deccan plateau, comprising 43% of India’s landmass. As per the findings, the Deccan region sees the highest frequency (of more than 6%) of severe droughts in all of India.
  • The study found significant drought conditions once in every three years in the Deccan plateau leading to large-scale migration and desertification.
  • For instance, in recent major droughts in Tamil Nadu, a 20% reduction in the primary sector caused an overall 5% drop in industry and a 3% reduction in the service sector.
  • Further, a 2019 case study revealed villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka’s districts were deserted (fell empty) as families left due to acute water crisis.


  • The governance and management of droughts must shift from the current reactive crisis management to proactive drought risk management.
  • Proactive drought risk management, includes drought monitoring, forecasting, early warning and measures to reduce vulnerability.
  • Measures for adapting to changing climate and actions to increase societal and environmental resilience should also be developed.
  • Increase in public awareness and development of water-saving practices and policies are needed for successfully introducing required changes.
  • A national drought resilience partnership that works to ensure a link between national and local levels with public, private and civil society partners should be developed.
  • Further, support should be generated for the establishment of a global mechanism for drought management focused on systemic risks.

About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

  • Headquartered in Geneva, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) was created in 1999 to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
  • It coordinates international efforts in disaster risk reduction and oversees the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
  • The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary people-centred approach to disaster risk reduction.
  • UNDRR brings governments, partners and communities together to reduce disaster risk and losses to ensure a safer, more sustainable future.

 Environment & Ecology