US Provides Drought Relief to India

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - The United States has joined the international community in announcing financial assistance to support relief and humanitarian help for 50 million drought victims in India.

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi announced assistance of just under $500,000, including a $25,000 donation by U.S. Ambassador Richard F. Celeste to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.

More than 11 Indian states have been suffering drought conditions for more than a month, and rains will not arrive before the July monsoon.

"The U.S. Embassy presented the check for the amount to the Prime Minister's Office as a humanitarian gesture to assist the Indian government in meeting some of the victims' immediate needs," an embassy statement said.

Apart from the $25,000 donation, the funds will be in the form of food and commodity relief donated by the U.S. Government.

The statement said Celeste had conveyed "condolences to the families of those affected by the drought on behalf of President Clinton and the American people."

Welcoming the symbolic gesture in relief efforts, J.D. Patel, a lawmaker in Gujarat, said, "The country has enough resources to meet the demands of the people."

Specialists, meanwhile, continue looking for ways to cope with such emergencies.

"The crisis has been building up over the past few decades as we had abused and wasted our water endowment, destroyed the capacity of our ecosystems to conserve water and be resilient to floods and droughts," said the director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Dr Vandana Shiva.

"The long-term solution to drought therefore lies in water conservation both through water harvesting as well as promotion of sustainable ecological agriculture based on bio-diversity.

"Such measures will prevent runoff, increase moisture-holding capacity of soils, reduce risks of crop failure and reverse the life-threatening processes of drought and desertification which have already engulfed large areas of our country," Shiva said.

The World Bank and Indian government were proposing privatization of water as a solution to water scarcity, she said.

"[Privatization] cannot be a solution. Water conservation and sustainable use of water can only be based on democratic control over water resources."

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has appealed to citizens to contribute to the effort.

"The appeal by Vajpayee has evoked good response and large number of Indians are coming forward to contribute to the relief and rehabilitation efforts," an official overseeing contributions said.