Introduction

Past attempts to manage drought and its impacts through a reactive, crisis management approach have been ineffective, poorly coordinated, and untimely, as illustrated by the hydro-illogical cycle in Figure 1. The crisis management approach has been followed in both developed and developing countries. Because of the ineffectiveness of this approach, greater interest has evolved in recent years in the adoption of a more proactive risk-based management approach in some countries (see Chapter 6). Other countries are striving to obtain a higher level of preparedness through development of national action programs that are part of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) or as part of separate national initiatives. In part, these actions directly result from the occurrence of recent severe drought episodes that have persisted for several consecutive years or frequent episodes that have occurred in succession with short respites for recovery between events. Global warming, with its threat of an

Figure 1 Hydro-illogical cycle. (Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.)

increased frequency of drought events in the future, has also caused greater anxiety about the absence of preparation for drought, which is a normal part of climate. Other factors that have contributed to this trend toward improved drought preparedness and policy development are spiraling costs or impacts associated with drought, complexity of impacts on sectors well beyond agriculture, increasing social and environmental effects, and rising water conflicts between users.

Progress on drought preparedness and policy development has been slow for a number of reasons. It certainly relates to the slow-onset characteristics of drought and the lack of a universal definition. These characteristics (defined in more detail in Chapter 1) make early warning, impact assessment, and response difficult for scientists, natural resource managers, and policy makers. The lack of a universal definition often leads to confusion and inaction on the part of decision makers because scientists may disagree on the existence of drought conditions and severity. Severity is also difficult to characterize because it is best evaluated on the basis of multiple indicators and indices rather than a single variable. The impacts of drought are also largely nonstructural and spatially extensive, making it difficult to assess the effects of drought and respond in a timely and effective manner. Drought and its impacts are not as visual as other natural hazards, making it difficult for the media to communicate the significance of the event and its impacts to the public. Public sentiment to respond is often lacking in comparison to other natural hazards that result in loss of life and property.

Another constraint to drought preparedness has been the dearth of methodologies available to planners to guide them through the planning process. Drought differs in its characteristics between climate regimes, and impacts are locally defined by unique economic, social, and environmental characteristics. A methodology developed by Wilhite (1991) and revised to incorporate greater emphasis on risk management (Wilhite et al., 2000) has provided a set of guidelines or a checklist of the key elements of a drought plan and a process through which they can be adapted to any level of government (i.e., local, state or provincial, or national) or geographical setting as part of a natural disaster or sustainable development plan, an integrated water resources plan, or a standalone drought mitigation plan. We describe this process here, with the goal of providing a template that government or organizations can follow to reduce societal vulnerability to drought.

Disaster Preparedness Kit

Disaster Preparedness Kit

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