Step 5: Prepare/Write the Key Tenets of a National Drought Management Policy and Preparedness Plans, Including the Following Elements: Monitoring, Early Warning, and Prediction; Risk and Impact Assessment; and Mitigation and Response

Drought preparedness/mitigation plans, as stated earlier, are the instruments through which a national drought policy is carried out. It is essential for these plans to reflect the principles of the national drought policy, which is centered on the concept of risk reduction. What is defined below is the creation of institutional capacity that should be replicated within each state or province within a country, with formal communication and reporting links to a national drought commission.

At the outset, it is important to point out that preparedness planning can take two forms. The first form, response planning, is directed toward the creation of a plan that is activated only during drought events and usually for the purpose of responding to impacts. This type of planning is reactive, and the responses that are forthcoming, whether from national or state government or donor organizations, are intended to address specific impacts on sectors, population groups, and communities and, therefore, reflect the key areas of societal vulnerability. In essence, responding to impacts through emergency measures addresses only the symptoms of drought (impacts), and these responses are usually untimely, poorly coordinated, and, often, poorly targeted to those most affected. As noted earlier, this largely reactive approach actually leads to an increase in societal vulnerability since the recipients of drought relief or assistance programs become dependent on government and other programs through the assistance provided to survive the crisis. This approach discourages the development of self-reliance and implementation of improved resource management practices that will reduce risk in the longer term. Stated another way, why should the potential recipients of emergency assistance institute more proactive mitigation measures if government or others are likely to bail them out of a crisis situation? Emergency measures are appropriate in some cases, particularly with regard to providing humanitarian assistance, but they need to be used sparingly and be compatible with the longer-term goals of a national drought policy that is focused on improving resilience to future events.

The second form of preparedness planning is mitigation planning. With this approach, the vulnerabilities to drought are identified as part of the planning process through the analysis of both historical and more recent impacts of droughts. These impacts represent those sectors, regions, and population groups that are most at risk. The planning process then can focus on identifying actions and governmental or nongovernmental authorities that can assist in providing the necessary resources to reduce the vulnerability. In support of a risk-based national drought policy, mitigation planning is the best choice if risk reduction is the goal of the planning process. The discussion below shows how states/provinces might go about creating a plan that emphasizes mitigation.

Each drought task force at the subnational level should identify the specific objectives that support the goals of the plan. The objectives that should be considered include the following:

  • • Collect and analyze drought-related information in a timely and systematic manner.
  • • Establish criteria for declaring drought emergencies and triggering various mitigation and response activities.
  • • Provide an organizational structure and delivery system that ensures information flow between and within levels of government and to decision makers at all levels.
  • • Define the duties and responsibilities of all agencies or ministries with respect to drought.
  • • Maintain a current inventory of government programs used in assessing and responding to drought emergencies and in mitigating impacts in the longer term, if available.
  • • Identify drought-prone areas of the state and vulnerable economic sectors, individuals, or environments.
  • • Identify mitigation actions that can be taken to address vulnerabilities and reduce drought impacts.
  • • Provide a mechanism to ensure timely and accurate assessment of drought's impacts on agriculture, industry, municipalities, wildlife, tourism and recreation, health, and other areas.
  • • Keep the public informed of current conditions and response actions by providing accurate and timely information to media in print and electronic form (e.g., via TV, radio, and the Internet).
  • • Establish and pursue a strategy to remove obstacles to the equitable allocation of water during shortages and establish requirements or provide incentives to encourage water conservation.
  • • Establish a set of procedures to continually evaluate and exercise the plan and periodically revise the plan so it will remain responsive to local needs and reinforce national drought policy.


Drought preparedness and mitigation plan organizational structure. (Courtesy of National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.)

The development of a drought preparedness plan that emphasizes mitigation begins with the establishment of a series of committees to oversee development of institutional capacity necessary for the plan as well as its implementation and application during times of drought when the various elements of the plan are activated. At the heart of the mitigation plan is the formation of a drought task force at the subnational level (e.g., state or provincial, and community) that mirrors to a large extent the makeup of the national drought commission (i.e., representatives from multiple agencies/ministries and key stakeholder groups). The organizational structure for the drought plan (Figure 4.3) reflects the three primary elements of the plan: monitoring, early warning, and information delivery; risk and impact assessment; and mitigation, preparedness, and response. It is recommended that a committee be established to focus on the first two of these requirements; the drought task force can, in most instances, carry out the mitigation and response functions since these are heavily policy oriented.

These committees will have their own tasks and goals, but well-established communication and information flow between committees and the task force is a necessity to ensure effective planning.

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