Floods and droughts have long been a part of life in India. Almost 150 years ago, the Ganga canal system was developed to bring water to farmers in the fertile upper Gangetic Plain. In southern India too, the early 20th century Krishna Raja Sagar Dam and other systems helped manage floods and prevent crop failures.
Today, however, the challenges are of a different magnitude altogether. The monsoon has become more erratic and unpredictable, bringing extreme rainfall on the one hand and sudden drought on the other. Worryingly, India's drought-prone area has increased by 57 percent since 19971, while instances of heavy rainfall have risen by almost 85 percent since 2012. This can have far-reaching impacts, affecting several generations.
To mitigate the impacts of floods and droughts, India has launched many policies and programs to improve water security and build climate resilience – several with World Bank support. This includes advances in technologies such as flood forecasting models, hydromet services and early warning systems, greater dam safety, and a national plan for disaster management. Even so, these measures, although laudable, will not be enough to address the scale of India’s water woes.