Flood and Drought Management for Building Resilience to Shocks


Floods and droughts are natural disasters that may be minimized through water management. Floods are natural phenomena which cannot be avoided, but human activities including changes in land use management practices and climate change are contributing to an increase in the likelihood and adverse impacts of flood events. While flood interventions may be capital intensive, but involving both hard and soft measures, interventions responding to drought could be more management-oriented. Appropriate interventions to cope with both floods and droughts are essential to protect rural livelihoods.

FAO has embarked on a program to build resilient livelihoods by reducing disaster risks through adaptation, mitigation, and institutional capacity development in disaster risk management. Both floods and droughts can have detrimental effects on food security and livelihoods among rural smallholders causing damages to food production and infrastructures as well as human lives. However, some of the negative impacts of these natural disasters on livelihoods and food security may be reduced through water related interventions. FAO is shifting its emphasis from a crisis management to a risk management approach in regard to natural disasters, which focuses more on coping capacities, preparedness, and resilience rather than managing emergencies. Human activities such as changes in land use management practices and climate change could make the adverse effects of these events even worse. Flood and drought interventions may involving both hard and soft measures or they could be either capital intensive or management oriented. It is also important to understand that there needs to be an ecosystem approach to disaster response integrating crops, livestocks, fisheries, and forestry as multiple use systems.




The flood and drought vulnerability zones in Asia are shown in the above figures. These maps have been produced based on mortality risks. They suggest that flood risk is much higher than drought risk in Asia. However, most parts of the region are affected by both floods and droughts, and even areas having high average rainfall often have moderate drought risks. Erratic rainfall and dependence on rainfed farming are the main reason for drought vulnerability. Thus, much of the drought phenomenon in the region is short-term dry spells in weather pattern and variability rather than sustained drought over a longer period of time. Even though flood and drought are two extreme opposing events, they often should be treated as complimentary in function. In other words, floods may be utilized as opportunities to mitigate the impacts of droughts such as by managing the the flood water and the use of groundwater source conjunctively through groundwater recharge.

The impacts of droughts are realized over a longer term and are less devastating to infrastructure compared to flood damage. But they can be devastating in human terms if mitigation and adaptation measures are not properly planned. Like flood control measures, drought management strategies also involve prevention, protection and preparedness. The first two are part of wider water management; many of the interventions discussed in this section will contribute to building resilience against the impact of droughts. Past trends and expected climate change scenarios indicate that groundwater irrigation livelihood zones (Western India) and the rice and wheat based livelihood zones in South and Southeast Asia will be most impacted by drought and need appropriate strategies, including water storage measures.


Flood water harvesting – spate irrigation. (CDE, 2013)


Drought management strategies involve adaptation, mitigation, and preparedness. Many of the interventions discussed here will also contribute to building resilience against the impact of droughts including water harvesting technologies and other temporary water storage interventions.  The implementation of climate smart agriculture which was initiated by FAO is part of the regional disaster risk reduction portfolio and will continue to be a focus.  In regard to preparedness, FAO is partnering with UN Water and other UN agencies in a National Drought Management Policies Initiative for capacity development in supporting the development of national drought management policies. The objective is to hold regional workshops including Asia to increase the institutional capacities of the target countries on the development of risk based national drought management policies.

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