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543. The Need for Proactive Management of Drought Risks

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According to a report published by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in May 2022 (DROUGHT IN NUMBERS 2022- restoration for readiness and resilience -), the frequency and intensity of droughts have been increasing in recent years, affecting not only human communities but also the entire ecosystem on which all life depends.

As summarized in the UNCCD press release, the report included the following shocking figures:

  • The number and duration of droughts has risen 29% since 2000.
  • The weather, climate and water hazards accounted for 50% of disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths from 1970 to 2019, occurring mostly in developing countries.
  • Droughts represent 15% of natural disasters but took the largest human toll, approximately 650,000 deaths from 1970-2019.
  • Droughts caused global economic losses of roughly USD 124 billion from 1998 to 2017.
  • More than 2.3 billion people face water stress in 2022 and almost 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.

The report emphasized that without immediate action, further crises are predicted. As follows:

  • By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought.
  • By 2040, an estimated one in four children will live in areas with extreme water shortages.
  • By 2050, an estimated 4.8-5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, and up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate due to drought in combination with other factors including water scarcity, declining crop productivity, sea-level rise, and overpopulation.

The most comprehensive solution lies in land restoration measures that are responsible for the deteriorating water cycle and loss of soil fertility. Landscapes need to be restored and ecosystem systems created yesterday, according to nature. There is a need for a paradigm shift from 'reactive' and 'crisis-based' approaches to 'proactive' and ‘risk-based’ drought management approaches involving coordination, communication and cooperation. Also needed are the following:

  • Sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques that grow more food on less land and with less water
  • Changes in our relationships with food, fodder and fiber, moving toward plant-based diets, and reducing or stopping the consumption of animals
  • Concerted policy and partnerships at all levels
  • Development and implementation of integrated drought action plans
  • Set up effective early-warning systems that work across boundaries
  • Deployment of new technologies such as satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence to guide decisions with greater precision
  • Regular monitoring and reporting to ensure continuous improvement
  • Mobilize sustainable finance to improve drought resilience at the local level
  • Invest in soil health
  • Work together and include and mobilize farmers, local communities, businesses, consumers, investors, entrepreneurs and, above all, young people

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program)


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