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Southeast Asia: Drought - 2019-2020

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Tipos de desastres


Measurements taken of the Mekong River at Kampong Cham over the month of November indicate that water levels have declined steadily, starting from almost five metres down to approximately three metres. Similarly, at the station in Phnom Penh, water levels declined from around four metres to just below three metres. This places the river at the lowest levels it has been in these areas, during this period, over the past forty years. (Mekong River Commission, 3 Dec 2019).


According to National Disaster Management Organisation (BNPB), at least three provinces in Indonesia, Central Java, East Java, and Special Region of Yogyakarta were exposed to drought. As many as 100,230 people were affected. The local government together with local DMO (BPBD) have sent support by distributing around a million litres of water across the affected areas. Since the Southwest Monsoon will continue, similar condition may likely occur throughout the southern region. In addition, BNPB’s Analysis Centre for Disaster Aware Situation (Pastigana), have identified several areas which may experience no-rain condition for more than sixty days such as East Java, Bali, and East Nusa Tenggara Provinces. (AHA Centre, 25 Jun 2019)

As of 4 July, drought hit 12 villages in six districts in Purbalingga District, Central Java. A total of 733 families or 2,809 people were affected by the drought since the beginning of June. The Regional Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) of Purbalingga Regency has carried out data collection and distribution of 49 clean water tanks or 245,000 liters for nine days. (AHA Centre, 7 Jul 2019)

As of 25 July, the National Agency for Disaster Management announced that 55 districts and cities have declared a drought emergency readiness status. This status is set to allow an accelerated response, i.e. water provision. These 55 districts are among 75 districts and cities identified as affected by drought, distributed as follows: West Java (21), Central Java (21), NTT (15), East Java (10), NTB (9), Yogyakarta (2), Bali (2), and Banten (1). Drought and crop failure will be addressed in the identified areas. (ECHO, 25 Jul 2019)

As of 14 August, 2,620 villages are facing drought conditions in 7 provinces, including Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, West Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. (OCHA, 19 Aug 2019)

By October, about 92 percent of the country was experiencing drought due to El Nino cycle at the end of 2018, which resulted in a drier and harsher dry season. The government predicted the situation to impact the lives of 48,491,666 people across 28 provinces. Nine provinces were severely affected by the drought: Banten, Central Java, West Java, East Java, Yogyakarta, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi and Borneo. The Government of Indonesia declared an emergency drought alert status in seven provinces: Banten, Central Java, West Java, East Java, Yogyakarta, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. (IFRC, 17 Oct 2019)

Nearly 50 million people in Indonesia may have been affected by the country’s long-running drought in 2019. About 92% of the country is currently experiencing drought due to El Nino cycle at the end of 2018, resulting in a harsher dry season. Earlier government estimates were that 48.5 million people in most of Indonesia’s provinces were affected, with emergencies declared in Banten, Central Java, West Java, East Java, Yogyakarta, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. (ECHO, 25 Oct 2019)


The Mekong’s water level is now slightly less than a meter, about seven metres lower than its typical height at this time of year. (ECHO, 23 Jul 2019)

Measurements taken of the Mekong River at Vientiane over the month of November indicate that water levels have not exceeded two metres, while the Pakse station recorded highs of less than 1.5 metres. This places the river at the lowest levels it has been in these areas, during this period, over the past forty years. (Mekong River Commission, 3 Dec 2019).

The impacts of drought and flooding in 2019, combined with the already low baseline levels of household resilience among vulnerable communities, indicated that an estimated 67,800 people would be food insecure beginning from March 2020. According to the household level food security assessments conducted, food insecurity was most acute among the poor households, and those dependent on upland rice cultivation. In consideration of the extensive crop losses and damage to agricultural livelihoods, the households dependant on upland rice cultivation and those without access to dry season planting are likely to require food assistance to bridge the food gap until the next main season harvest in 2020, which begins in October (FAO, 9 Apr 2020).

the Philippines

Recent PAGASA's climate monitoring and analyses indicate that the unusually warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific (CEEP) which started since November 2018 is expected to become a full-blown El Nino. During the past three months, rainfall analyses showed that impacts of below normal rainfall conditions in provinces of Western Mindanao and Ilocos Norte were already experienced and are expected to continue. Five municipalities in Cotabato Province (Region XII) were affected by dry spell November 2018 to 22 January 2019. (Govt. of the Philippines, 5 Mar 2019)

Drought conditions are being reported in the MIMAROPA Region, Region IX, and Region XII, BARMM and Metro Manila, where ten provinces have declared a State of Calamity according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). While PAGASA declared a weak El Niño lasting until June, agricultural regions are suffering from its worsening effects, with the Department of Agriculture (DA) reporting damage to over 13,600 ha of agricultural crops, mostly rice (81 per cent) and corn (19 per cent). Agricultural losses are estimated at PhP1.33 billion (US$25.6 million) but could run higher as the DA verifies reports from regional offices. Over 16,000 farmers and fisherfolk are affected, and some local media are reporting that the drought conditions are also starting to affect livestock, with some farm animals dying due to the lack of grass or hay for foraging.

Mindanao is the most affected region, a major food producer where poverty levels are the highest in the country and farmers and fisherfolk are already vulnerable due to repeated armed conflict and natural hazards such as heavy rain and flooding. Since January, the NDRRMC reports that the central and western Mindanao provinces are experiencing below normal rainfall conditions which is predicted to continue. Close to 72,000 families (360,000 people) are affected in the five municipalities in North Cotabato alone, sixty per cent of which are located in Pikit. With the recommendation of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, local authorities of North Cotabato have declared a State of Calamity. (OCHA, 29 Mar 2019)

As of 25 April, weak El Niño (dry spell) condition continues to affect and incur agricultural losses to farmers.Thirty-nine local government units have declared a state of calamity due to a dry spell. 164,000 farmers have been affected. (OCHA, 25 Apr 2019)

El Niño conditions persist in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Warmer than average sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific of at least 0.5°C was observed, since the last quarter of 2018. Recent analyses from global climate models suggest that the on-going El Niño condition will likely to continue until the June-July-August 2019 season. As of 24 May, more than one million people were affected in 9 regions. (Govt. of the Philippines, 24 May 2019)

The dominance of the Southwest Monsoon in the region is expected to alleviate the impacts of El Niño in the Philippines. However, seasonal model outlooks generally tend to favour below-normal rainfall for the country. This means that while rainy season is coming to the Philippines, the amount of expected rainfall will still perform below usual. (AHA Centre, 9 Jun 2019)

As of 27 June, a total of 1,810,382 people have been affected by the drought/dry spell in Regions I, V, VI, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, CARAGA, and CA. It has also affected 247,610 farmers and caused an estimated 7,962,521,863.48 pesos worth of agricultural damages. A total of 51 local government units (LGUs) have declared a state of calamity due to the dry spell. (Govt. of the Philippines, 27 Jun 2019)

The weak El Niño which started since the last quarter of 2018 has ended based on the final advisory issued by DOST-PAGASA on 9 August 2019. The warmer than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific Ocean has weakened and transitioned into neutral levels in July. It is expected that ENSO-neutral conditions will likely persist through the remainder of the year. (Govt. of the Philippines, 28 Aug 2019)

An (FAO study) analyzed the outcome of acting early on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines between 2018 and 2019, ahead of an El Niño‑induced drought. It evaluated the effectiveness of anticipatory actions and highlighted families’ perspectives on the benefits of acting early.


Across Timor-Leste, more than 35 percent (210,000 ha) of cropland is currently experiencing severe to extreme drought. Lautem is also considered as having suffered a very long drought, with more than 30 days without rainfall, affecting 40,000 people in the municipality. Almost 1,000 women were assisted in December 2019 by the World Food Programme, as part of a campaign to improve nutrition in the country in light of the drought conditions. (WFP, 31 Dec 2019).


The Meteorological Department of Thailand reported that the country is going to experience the worst drought in a decade, as average precipitation across large swaths of the country has fallen far short of the monthly average, particularly in the North and Northeastern as well as in the Central Plains - all of which are important crop growing regions. The water level of the Mekong river in the northeastern border province is only about 1.5 metres high, possibly the lowest level in almost 100 years. (ECHO, 23 Jul 2019)

Media reports state on 18 August that the Lam Takhong Reservoir is at 40 percent of its storage capacity and that only 80 percent of the water in the Reservoir can be used. Many living near Klong Pai have been without tap water, despite living near the Reservoir. The reports also state that there is no water left in six of the 23 medium and large dams. Phra Thong Kham and Khon Buri are two districts declared disaster-stricken areas as a result of the water shortage (Govt. of Thailand, 19 Aug 2019).

Measurements taken of the Mekong River at Chiang Khan over the month of November indicate that water levels have not exceeded five metres. The Nong Khai and Mukdahan stations similarly saw water levels that did not exceed two metres. This places the river at the lowest levels it has been in these areas, during this period, over the past forty years (Mekong River Commission, 3 Dec 2019).

As of 18 December, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation ordered drought emergency measures in 54 districts in 11 provinces -- Chiang Rai, Nan, Nakhon Phanom, Maha Sarakham, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Buri Ram, Kalasin, Kanchanaburi, Chachoengsao and Phetchabun. The department has ordered local officials to provide people in those drought areas with water trucks, and has reached out to provincial administrations to survey water resources, both in terms of personal consumption and agricultural use. The department also announced that dams in nine provinces -- Chiang Mai, Uthai Thani, Chaiyaphum, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Suphan Buri, Lop Buri and Chachoengsao -- have fallen to less than 30% of their total combined capacity (Bangkok Post, 18 Dec 2019).

Many provinces of Thailand are now facing a drought disaster, which is expected to be more severe than last year. In response, the government has set up a special command center, to handle the crisis and assist affected village. The center will serve as a temporary cooperative center according to the Water Resources Act BE 2561 until the situation improves. The center will serve as a temporary cooperative center to oversee operations, situational forecasts, management, crisis warnings, and public relations. (Govt. of Thailand, 6 Jan 2020).

Following the drought emergency declared by the Government of Thailand, water distribution points and water trucks have been dispatched across almost 4,120 villages in 80 districts through the North, Northeastern, Upper Central and Western provinces. Urgent relief operations are underway to get water to drought-ravaged areas, mostly in outlying districts. Underground water will be provided from more than 520 sources throughout the country, 85 of which are situated in Maha Sarakham, where the drought is dire in many villages. In Bangkok, tap water has turned saltier in parts of the city. The saline intrusion is just one sign of dry conditions pointing to what the Thai Meteorological Department expects to be the worst drought in four decades. (ECHO, 10 Jan 2020).

The Government of Thailand has mobilised the army to combat the effects of drought in the country. The military’s disaster units will provide support, by engaging in disaster response operations, including distributing water to affected villagers, as well as drilling and developing groundwater wells, tap water system repairs, and supplying water to affected hospitals and schools. Engineer units and development military units are now constructing approximately 400 groundwater wells in more than 10 provinces severely affected by the drought. The units have deployed water pumps and 530 water tankers to deliver water to affected villagers in over 40 provinces facing water shortages, and have prepared nine aircraft to support rainmaking operations to cover all affected areas. (Govt. of Thailand, 17 Jan 2020).

The Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) has implemented measures to mitigate saltwater intrusion using water from the eastern region. The office is following up the progress of drought prevention projects and village water sources development which help increase water reserves by 134 million cubic meters. Some 70,000 houses are anticipated to benefit from the project. (Govt. of Thailand, 30 Jan 2020).

As of 11 February, twenty-one provinces in the North, Northeast and central region have been declared drought-hit areas by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. The provinces are Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan, Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Phetchabun in the North; Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon, Kalasin, Maha Sarakham, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum in the Northeast; and Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Chai Nat, Kanchanaburi, Suphan Buri and Chachoengsao in the central region. A total of 5,809 villages were affected in 674 subdistricts of 127 districts. (Bangkok Post, 11 Feb 2020)

The Eastern Royal Rainmaking Operations Center stepped up operations to offset drought and replenish reservoirs in aid of fruit growers in severely affected provinces of Chanthaburi, Chonburi, and Rayong. The center was established at U-Tapao Airport to cope with a prevailing drought affecting the Eastern region. The center began work in February 2020. So far, six missions totaling seven flights have resulted in moderate showers. (Govt. of Thailand, 11 Apr 2020)

As of 20 April 2020, 25 provinces have so far declared drought affected areas, covering 6,846 villages in 146 districts. Disaster areas have been declared in six northern provinces, namely Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan, Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Phetchabun; in 10 northeastern provinces: Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Nakhon Phanom, Sakhon Nakhon, Kalasin, Maha Sarakham, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Chaiyaphum, and Sisaket; in 8 central and eastern provinces, namely Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Chainat, Kanchanaburi, Suphanburi, Chachoengsao, Prachin Buri, Chanthaburi; and in Songkhla in the southern region. (Govt. of Thailand, 20 Apr 2020)


The Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, announced that drought condition in the north central region will continue until early August. Nearly 14,900 ha of crops are affected, accounting for nearly 3.2 percent of the total. In the south central region, about 54,400 ha will be impacted, making up 15 percent of the total. Nearly 138,800 regional households will lack water for daily use. (ECHO, 23 Jul 2019)

A drought affecting the Mekong Region may have a serious impact on crop production and food security in Viet Nam. According to the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority, the Mekong Delta and Central Highlands regions have been facing abnormal weather that could be attributed to climate change. Retention of water by dams in upstream areas is also seen as contributing to record-low water levels. The Mekong River levels in June and July 2019 significantly fell compared to previous years, raising concern of exacerbated drought and saline intrusion for the entire Mekong Delta in the 2019-20 dry season. Concerns on the impact this may have on rice crop production have already led to a rise in regional rice export prices. (OCHA, 30 Dec 2019)

The ongoing drought, water shortage and saltwater intrusion have so far affected 82,000 households and are exposing a higher number of vulnerable people in the Mekong Delta region to significant water shortage risks. A total of 13 out of the 63 provinces of Viet Nam have been affected and 3 provinces (Kien Giang, Ben Tre and Tien Giang) have declared a state of emergency. (UNCT Viet Nam, 27 Feb 2020)

The ongoing drought, water shortage and saltwater intrusion have so far affected 165,000 households and 29,000 ha of agriculture land across several provinces and are exposing a higher number of vulnerable people in the Mekong Delta region to significant water shortage risk. (UNCT Viet Nam, 03 Mar 2020)

As of 7 March, five provinces have declared a state of emergency. On 8 March, the Prime Minister while visiting affected areas, agreed to declare natural disaster in five provinces, and announced VND 350 billion to support relief efforts. The COVID-19 outbreak is putting an additional socio-economic pressure on vulnerable households already affected by drought and saltwater intrusion (IFRC, 30 Apr 2020)

As of 25 March, at least 95,600 households were affected by water shortage. Over 38,000 hectares of agricultural land have been damaged or lost and 5 provinces are in state of emergency. (UNCT Viet Nam, 25 Mar 2020)

As of 22 May, the south central and Central Highland regions have witnessed a sharp decline in rainfall since the beginning of this year compared with the average. The water level in many irrigation and hydropower reservoirs have dropped to 20-60 per cent of their designed capacity. Many small ones have even dried up. (VNS, 22 May 2020)