Monday, May 14, 2012

Why do we swing between drought and flood in India?

Sunita Narain in Rediff Business (warning--the article is split into many pages): It's drought time again. Nothing new in this announcement. Each year, first we have crippling droughts between December and June, and then devastating floods in the next few months.

It's a cycle of despair, which is more or less predictable. But this is not an inevitable cycle of nature we must live with. These are man-made droughts and floods, caused by deliberate neglect and designed failure of the way we manage water and land.

What we must note with concern is that these 'natural' disasters are growing in intensity and ferocity. We must ask: why are we still so badly hit, when for years we have been doing everything to drought-proof our agriculture and economy?

This year, large parts of Maharashtra have been hit by a severe drought. People are thirsty, crops are lost and livestock abandoned. Why, when Maharashtra has had the longest programme for drought relief in the country? It was in the 1970s, when the state was similarly afflicted, that it devised the employment guarantee act.

It guaranteed jobs close to where people lived so that they would not be compelled to migrate to cities in times of scarcity. Since the scheme was to check migration, city dwellers and professionals paid for this programme....

A bullock cart transporting sugar cane in Maharashtra, shot by Yann, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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