Pakistan has a long latitudinal extent and the rainfall variability during different seasons is considerably high. The climate of the country in its lower southern half is arid and hyper-arid while the northern half of the country lies between semi-arid to very humid. Some regions of the country in each season, remain drastically dry and the area is always vulnerable to drought. If subsequent seasons fail to generate significant precipitation, the drought conditions then are sure to take the vulnerable regions in the grip. All the provinces of Pakistan have a history of facing major droughts in the past.
Drought differs from other natural disasters (e.g., floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes and earthquakes etc) in the sense that the effects of drought often accumulate slowly over a considerable period of time and may linger for years. Because of this, drought is often referred to as a “Creeping Phenomena”. Drought impacts are less obvious and are spread over large geographical areas than the damages that result from other natural hazards. Consequently, drought affects more people than any other environmental hazard.
Unfortunately, no organization was dealing with the drought issues existing in Pakistan and the responses to drought for the distressed economic and social sector, whenever such situation arose, were taken on an emergency and Adhoc basis. It was thus inevitable need of the time and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) took an initiative to establish the National Drought/Environment monitoring and Early Warning Centre (NDMC) in 2004-05 after the worst drought during 1999-2001 in Pakistan. The main objective is to monitor the drought situation in the country and issue advisory before time. Its national centre is in Islamabad while four Regional Drought Monitoring Centers (RDMC’s) are in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. These four RDMC’s cover those regions which come under their jurisdiction. These centres serve as a hub for the monitoring, collection, consolidation and analysis of drought-related data from all the possible sources in the country. To strengthen the network, 50 Automatic weather stations (AWS) have been installed in different regions, particularly the drought-prone areas of the country. The data of eleven meteorological parameters i.e. air temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, dew point, sea level pressure, station level pressure, solar radiations, soil moisture at standard depths (5, 10, 20, 50,100)cm and snow level are transmitted through satellite and GPRS technology after 3 hours. So, it has now become easy to access the data of remote areas of the country. NDMC has installed 335 Ordinary Rainguages at the districts level in four provinces as shown in figure-1.
NDMC is monitoring the water level situation of small dams also in Barani areas of the country. NDMC using different indices like Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), Normalized difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Cumulative Precipitation Anomaly (CPA), Rainfall Anomaly Index (RAI), Percent of normal, Probability of occurrence, Percentage departure and soil moisture analysis etc to monitor drought. NDMC issues fortnightly, monthly, quarterly and annually drought bulletins of the country. These bulletins are used by NGO‘s and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).