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India Strives to Become ‘Drought Proof’
In a country of 1.2 billion people, the threat of drought takes on epic proportions.
Over a period of two centuries (between 1801 and 2002), India experienced 42 severe droughts, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation. One of these, in 1979, cut food grain production by 20 percent; another, in 1987, damaged 58.6 million hectares of cultivated land, affecting 285 million people.
In the last decade (2002-2012) three major droughts hit the country, and in 2012 drought shaved off half a percentage point from the Asian giant’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to a 2013 World Bank report.
Seventy percent of Indians live in rural areas, while 58 percent rely solely on agriculture for a living. The 355 million people who fall below the 1.25-dollars-a-day poverty line depend primarily on rain-fed agriculture for subsistence.
Thus drought has become a national priority for the Indian government, particularly as climate change causes ever more erratic monsoon rains.