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Strategy to Develop Degraded Land

Dr. Gopal Kalkoti

India has world's 2% of geographical area and 1.5% of forest and pasture lands to support 18% of world's population and 15% of livestock population. The increasing human and animal population has been instrumental in the reduction in the availability of land over the decades. While the per capita availability of land has declined from 0.89 hectare in 1951 to 0.37 hectare in 1991 and is projected to decline to 0.20 hectare in 2035, per capita agricultural land has declined from 0.48 hectare to 0.16 hectare and likely to decline to 0.08 hectare in respective years.

Extent of land degradation

Agencies that have so far estimated land degradation include National Commission on Agriculture (1976), Society for Promotion on Agriculture (1976), Society for Promotion of Wasteland Developments

  • (1984) , National Remote Sensing Agencies (1985), Ministry of Agriculture
  • (1985) , National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (1985 & 2005). The estimates on the extent of land degradation in India vary widely from 63.9 million hectares to 187.0 million hectares due to different approaches, methodologies, defining degraded soils, adopting various criteria for delineation, among others. However, one cannot underestimate the challenging nature and extent of land degradation in India. The National Bureau of Soil Survey & Land Use Planning (NBSS & LUP) of the ICAR, Nagpur in 2005 has reported that out of 328.60 million hectares of geographical area in India Net Cultivated Area is about 141 million hectares (42.9%) of which irrigated area is about 57 million hectares (40.4%) and about 84 million hectares (59.6%) are rainfed. Area of around 146.82 million hectares (44.7%) out of 328.60 million hectares is suffering from various kinds of land degradation. In absence of comprehensive and periodic scientific surveys, the figures reported by NBSS & LUP based on studies and several estimates (2005) for various land degradation have been considered as logically concluded and are being used for various purposes.

Land degradation is caused by several factors viz. water and wind erosion, water logging, salinity/alkalinity, soil acidity, among others. India has been experiencing a very high degree of land degradation as 44.7% of its geographical area is classified as degraded. Of this 93.68 million hectares (63.8%) are affected by water erosion, 16.03 million hectares (10.9%) by soil acidity, 14.30 million hectares (9.7%) by water logging, 9.48 million hectares (6.5%) by wind erosion, 5.94 million hectares (4.1%) by salinity/alkalinity and 7.38 million hectares (5.0%) by complex problems.

Across regions, all six regions had very high percentage of geographical area as degraded ranging from as high as 56.3% for Central region to 35.4% for Northern region and even 29.5% for Delhi and Union Territories. Among States, 11 states had extremely high percentage of geographical area degraded above mean value of 44.7% ranging from 52.0% to 89.2% and other 15 states too had significantly high percentage of geographical area degraded varying from 25.4% to 43.9%. In particular Mizoram (89.2%) Himachal (75.0%) Nagaland (60.0%) Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh combined (59.1%) were states with very severe intensity of degradation.

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