The Summer of 2012 is turning out to be one of the worst in living memory for millions of people in the northern hemisphere, as a devastating drought ravages across thousands of hectares of farmland from the Korean peninsula in the east through China and India and on to the US Midwest.
While hundreds of farmers have committed suicide in recent months in several Indian states, there are fears of a catastrophe in North Korea because of the food shortage.
In several Midwestern states of the US, authorities are urging people not to light fireworks for the forthcoming Independence Day celebrations to limit the danger of fire. Comparisons are already being drawn to the drought of 1988 when nearly $80 billion worth of crops were lost following the failure of the rains in America.
Nearly a quarter of the United States is facing drought conditions and corn prices have soared by almost 30 per cent. The fact that the drought is affecting vast swathes of land in three of the world’s most significant economies — the US, China and India — which are also leading producers of agricultural crops means that there could be an acute shortage of food and a spurt in food prices.
North Korea, facing its worst drought in 50 years, is already posing a major challenge for the global community with a looming food shortage threatening millions. According to the United Nations, nearly two-thirds of the 24 million people in the country are facing chronic food shortages. The situation is equally grim in South Korea, where many regions are facing the worst drought since records began to be maintained more than a century ago.
In China, more than 4.25 million people — and an equally large number of livestock — are suffering from a shortage of drinking water in half a dozen provinces. In Hubei, about 800,000 people have been deprived of drinking water because of the drought.
The south-west monsoon, the lifeblood of India’s agriculture economy — which provides livelihood to 700 million people — has seen a disastrous start. The rains have failed across the sub-continent, leading to scarcity conditions. Met officials have also warned that the rains could fail during the second-half of the monsoon season (August and September) because of the El Nino effect, causing untold misery for millions.
Is drought 2012 a prelude to an ominous era of water scarcity caused by global warming, as some might insist? It is indeed difficult to conjecture as even climate experts and scientists are divided on such matters. Climate patterns have been known to change dramatically over the centuries and droughts and famines have been with us for thousands of years, destroying communities and nations. Governments though must harness technology to provide solace to the millions suffering from such harsh climatic upheavals.