Agri Business

Drought-forecasting toolbox unveiled at UNCCD event

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 11, 2019 Published on September 11, 2019

A UN body holding a meeting here has unveiled a toolbox that will not only warn of an impending drought, but also suggest means to mitigate the adverse impact of acute water scarcity.

The ongoing 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on Wednesday witnessed the official release of the Drought Toolbox, which can be used by countries to assess drought risks in their regions much in advance, and prepare to deal with the water scarcity.

The drought toolbox, which uses 30 parameters, including soil moisture, rainfall data and temperature data of the present and past, can accurately evaluate the vulnerability of different geographic regions to drought. Already 70 countries have shown interest in making use of the toolbox, said UNCCD officials.

The need for a better tool to forecast droughts and minimise their socio-economic impact was felt long ago and two years ago many countries suggested that the UNCCD come up with a template.

Subsequently, UNCCD experts began working on the drought toolbox together with their counterparts from other UN organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Meteorological Organization, as well as from the University of Nebraska in the US.

In a discussion earlier in the day, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said the economic impact of drought has increased almost three-fold in the last few years. If the cost of drought globally was $29 billion a year between 2005-2015, it is now is more than $80 billion a year, he said.

According to him, droughts have caused loss of foodgrains that can feed as many as 81 million people every day. Quoting a World Bank study, Thiaw said droughts, which are normally difficult to foresee are four times costlier than floods.

Lorena Aguilar Revelo, Vice Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, warned those gathered at the meeting that a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures will put an additional 441 million people at the risk of facing drought globally.

Most experts also agreed that women will suffer most. “Unfortunately, drought knows gender very well,” said the UNCCD chief, adding that it will adversely impact their well-being in resource-poor areas as they have to spend longer periods looking for water.

Published on September 11, 2019
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