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Droughts in the Anthropocene


This publication was produced as part of the digital interactive exhibition Droughts in the Anthropocene, prepared for the fortieth session of the UNESCO General Conference. Droughts in the Anthropocene features fifteen case studies from around the world showcasing the social, environmental and cultural impacts of droughts and water scarcity. It highlights solutions offered by collaboration between scientists and local communities, and the important work of UNESCO IHP and partners in bridging science with society and policymakers to better address the impact of droughts. The publication is multilingual and available in English/French and English/Spanish.

Droughts are slow-onset natural hazards that can last from a few months to decades and affect anything from small watersheds to hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. In addition to their direct impacts on water resources, agriculture and ecosystems, droughts are potential catalysts for fires, heatwaves and invasive incursions, thereby creating multi-hazard environments and furthering the impact on and vulnerability of ecosystems and societies. Though droughts are natural events, there is an increasing understanding of how humans have amplified their severity and worsened their effects on both the environment and human populations. Humans have altered both meteorological droughts through human-induced climate change and hydrological droughts through management of water movement and processes within a landscape, such as by diverting rivers or changing land use. In the Anthropocene (the ongoing period in which humans are the dominant influence on climate and the environment), droughts are closely entwined with human actions, cultures and responses.

Droughts affect economies (causing economic damage in the range of tens of billions of US$ each year) as well as ecosystems and societies, particularly in arid and subtropical regions and in developing countries. Between 1995 and 2015, drought-related natural disasters affected 1.1 billion people and caused about 22,000 fatalities [1]. Women and girls are typically the hardest affected by drought due to gender inequalities, unequal power distribution and limited control over resources, making them even more vulnerable to drought impacts.

Addressing water scarcity in transboundary basins is a complex challenge: climate change and human influences put pressure on freshwater supplies, while lakes and rivers that cross international borders require coordinated interventions that take into consideration the basin as a whole. Droughts in the Anthropocene will therefore require us to take new approaches and share knowledge to find sustainable solutions. To mitigate the effects of droughts, we must increase human and institutional capacity, provide access to relevant early warning information that supports decision-making and completes the ‘last mile’ in communication and response, identify vulnerable communities and integrate these components into proactive drought management policies

Table of contents:
Cape Town – Countdown to Day Zero and the way forward
Lake Chad – Tackling drought through cooperation
Sub-Saharan Africa – Knowledge to overcome water and food challenges
Zambia – Managing multiple objectives in a changing environment
Morocco – Harvesting fog in the mountains
Saudi Arabia – Sustainable solutions for making the desert bloom
Aral Sea – Conserving and rehabilitating a lost sea
Keoladeo National Park – A World Heritage site threatened by drought
Marshall Islands –Addressing water scarcity in a changing climate
Vietnam – The impact of drought in the Lower Mekong
California – Mitigating the socioeconomic impacts of drought
United Kingdom – Understanding the complexities of drought
The Caribbean – Navigating through changing risks
Chile – The Mega Drought
Peru – Diverse landscapes and monitoring challenges

Copy numberShelfmarkLoan categorySiteLoan status
LAN/GEN/995 ELAN/GEN/995 EBookmainavailable
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