Wastelands in India

Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectare (mil. ha) in India 175 mil.ha has become wastelands. An area of 150 mil.ha has been degraded due to wind and water erosion which constitutes 85.7% of total wastelands. The remaining 25 mil.ha (14.3%) has been degraded due to water logging, salinization alkalinity, shifting cultivation etc. The degradation of top-soil in India has been estimated as 141 mil.ha constitutes 11% of the total loss of top soil of the world.

Deforestation which is one of the potent factors for turning fertile.

Lands into wastelands require immediate attention. India loses its forests at the rate of 1.5 mil.ha per year while the total rate of deforestation for the world accounts for 17 mil.ha per year. Based on the satellite imagery data Forest Survey of India reports that the total forests area of India stands at 637.293 sq. km by 1999 which constitutes only 19.4% of the geographical area though the New Forest policy of India states that 33% of the geographical area of India should necessarily be forest area (The Hindu, 2001). The present demand of fuel wood in India is about 235 million cum whereas our forests can supply only 40 million cum per annum. As India would require about 350 million cu.m. of fuel wood by 2010 A.D. There would occur a deficit of 305 million cum of fuel wood per year by then (Sagreiya, 2000).

Besides, the rate of annual afforestation is very meager as the Afforestation : Deforestation stands at 1 : 14 as against the world ratio of 1 : 10 (Newman, 1990; Sharma, 2001). Besides causing a number of ecological factors which are known to us, the removal of trees from our forests at a massive scale remove 60-75% of organic matter and other important nutrients thus rendering the soil nutrient depleted. Hence there is need to enhance massive planting of trees of overcome the various problems discussed herewith. In India, Rajasthan has largest area of wastelands (37 mil.ha) constituting 21.1% of the total wastelands of India. The percentages of wastelands in the North East constitute 1625% of their respective geographical areas.

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