Soon, a toolbox to help countries deal with drought better

TV Jayan Ankara | Updated on June 19, 2019

The toolbox will be launched before the next Conference of Parties in New Delhi in September   -  istock/Barcin

The toolbox which uses a total of 15 to 30 different parameters to assess drought risk and vulnerability of a geographical region

The cumbersome process of governments declaring drought is all set to undergo a sea-change with an international team of experts devising an easy-to-handle drought monitoring and forecasting mechanism.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is currently testing a drought toolbox which uses a total of 15 to 30 different parameters to assess drought risk and vulnerability of a geographical region.

The Bonn-based the UN convention was given the task of developing such a tool by countries during the previous Conference of Parties (CoP) meeting at Ordos in China in 2017. Since then, the UNCCD has been working with other UN organisations including World Meteorological Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation, besides experts from the University of Nebraska in the US to design the toolbox.

This can be used by countries to assess and evaluate drought vulnerability in their regions. This can help countries improve their preparedness for dealing with drought.


“A work-in-progress, the drought toolbox will be launched before the next CoP in New Delhi in September,” said Barron Joseph Orr, lead scientist at Science, Technology and Implementation Unit of UNCCD. According to Orr, about 70 countries have shown interest in using the toolbox as of now.

The current procedure of declaring drought is very complex in most countries. In South Africa, for instance, there is a need to align as many as nine different policies before drought declaration. The process is complicated in India, too.

A Bihar State goverment official told BusinessLine recently that the State could not get the Centre to declare drought in the State, despite more than half the blocks in the State suffering from acute rainfall shortage which led to water scarcity.

‘One-stop shop’

“Drought toolbox is an online web platform — a one-stop shop — for all drought-preparedness measures with a link to the various relevant tools in other organisations,” said Daniel Tsegai, programme officer at UNCCD, who is co-ordinating the drought toolbox work.

According to him, the tools are categorised in line with three pillars of drought preparedness: (i) monitoring, early warning and forecasting tools used by decision makers; (ii) vulnerability assessment tools for identifying hotspots; (iii) risk mitigation tools with key “policy” and “technical” measures.

The author was in Ankara for the World Day to Combat Desertification at the invitation of UNCCD

Published on June 19, 2019

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