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LAND DEGRADATION and RESTORATION IN INDIA



  Jun 10, 2024

LAND DEGRADATION and RESTORATION IN INDIA



Definitions

Land Degradation: The reduction or loss of biological or economic productivity due to land use or a combination of processes including human activities and natural phenomena.

Desertification: Land degradation occurring in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, often exacerbated by climatic variations and human activities.

Current Situation

India’s land degradation has been increasing. Between 2011-2013, 29.3% of the total land was degraded, an increase of 0.57% (1.87 million hectares) compared to 2003-2005. Soil erosion due to water and wind and the degradation of vegetation cover were primary causes. Almost 90% of Indian states experienced a rise in land degradation during this period, with notable increases in Delhi and the northeastern states.

Causes of Land Degradation

1. Soil Erosion:
• Water erosion: Loss of soil cover due to rainfall and surface runoff.
• Wind erosion: Spread of sand that erodes soil.

2. Degradation of Vegetation:
• Deforestation, forest-blanks, shifting cultivation, and grazing or grassland degradation.

3. Human Activities:
• Overexploitation of natural resources for agriculture, grazing, and deforestation.
• Inadequate soil and water conservation measures.
• Urbanization and industrialization leading to the conversion of agricultural land to non-productive uses.

4. Climate Change:
• Increased frequency of extreme weather conditions and changing precipitation patterns.

Economic and Environmental Impact

Land degradation has significant economic costs, affecting agricultural productivity, water quality, biodiversity, and sustainable development. According to a study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the economic losses from land degradation and land-use change in 2014-15 stood at 2.54% of India’s GDP, amounting to Rs. 3,177.39 billion (US$ 46.9 billion).

Measures to Combat Land Degradation

1. Watershed Management:
• Implement afforestation and soil conservation programs.
• Prioritize watershed management to address soil erosion and improve soil moisture and water recharge.

2. Policy and Regulation:
• Develop and enforce a strict land-use policy to protect prime agricultural lands.
• Promote rooftop rainwater harvesting and other water conservation practices.

3. Technological Interventions:
• Use geospatial technology and satellite data to monitor and map land degradation.
• Utilize high-resolution remote sensing data for detailed planning and intervention.

4. Afforestation and Reforestation:
• Implement large-scale afforestation initiatives under programs like the National Mission for a Green India (GIM) and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

5. Community Involvement:
• Engage local communities in conservation efforts and awareness programs.
• Promote sustainable agricultural practices and the restoration of degraded lands through community-led initiatives.

6. International Cooperation:
• Collaborate with international organizations like the UNCCD to achieve land degradation neutrality.
• Share knowledge and best practices with other countries facing similar challenges.

Long-Term Restoration

Restoring degraded lands is a long-term process requiring consistent efforts over several decades. Effective land reclamation, if scientifically and properly executed, can take approximately 25-30 years for visible restoration.

Future Steps

1. Enhanced Mapping and Monitoring:
• Map land degradation at finer scales for district or village-level planning.
• Continue detailed mapping and analysis using semi-automatic techniques.

2. Policy Implementation:
• Ensure systematic implementation of watershed interventions.
• Strengthen policies related to land use and water conservation.

3. Capacity Building:
• Develop and support training programs for local communities and stakeholders.
• Foster collaboration between government, NGOs, and private sectors.

Conclusion

Addressing land degradation in India requires a multifaceted approach, including policy reforms, technological advancements, community engagement, and international cooperation. By implementing these measures, India can work towards sustainable land management and achieve land degradation neutrality.




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