Study suggests pathways to arrest India’s land degradation

Analysis of the data has also shown that there has been an increase of about 3.32 mha of land under degradation between 2003-05 and 2018-19...

Published: 09th September 2023 07:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2023 07:22 PM   |  A+A-

Some of the villagers planted trees from their own money to prevent land degradation.

(Representational Photo)

With 29.77% of India’s geographical area facing land degradation, conducting authoritative and frequent assessments of the type, degree, extent, and causative factors of soil erosion is essential to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) in the country, suggests a recent study carried out by the researchers at Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE).

The technical paper Pathways to achieve land degradation neutrality in India prepared by the researchers of the Centre of Excellence on Sustainable Land Management (CoE-SLM) at ICFRE also suggests a comprehensive planning approach that looks at the causes of land degradation and promotes sustainable ways to use land.

As per this paper, soil and land degradation have been extensively influenced by both, natural factors and human activities, for which it is imperative to take immediate action to halt degradation processes and restore degraded lands.

It states that land degradation processes can be restricted. However, it requires long-term commitments. The roadmap for the same includes the identification of suitable areas for eco-restoration and afforestation with a section of suitable climate-resilient multipurpose tree species; managing soil erosion by adopting location-specific and water conservation practices; dealing with soil salinity in agricultural land; adopting proper agriculture and land management practices and converging these activities with the ongoing national and state government programmes.

Mapping of degraded lands in the country by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre indicates that an area of 97.85 million hectare (mha), accounting for about 29.77% of the country’s total geographic area, is under degradation as of 2018-19.

Analysis of the data has also shown that there has been an increase of about 3.32 mha of land under degradation between 2003-05 and 2018-19 with the major drivers for the same being identified as water erosion (11.01%); vegetation degradation (9.15%) and wind erosion (5.46%).

Stating that the CoE-SLM is making efforts to identify the degraded land and its major drivers and developing site-specific appropriate sustainable land management practices to achieve land degradation neutrality, the paper highlights that the Centre of Excellence has identified and mapped hotspots areas at the national level where the vulnerability and severity of degradation is maximum compared to other areas and demands immediate attention.

“A well-planned action in identified hotspot areas spread over 1,32,371.6 sq km, approximately 4% of the total geographical area, provides an opportunity to restore the land to achieve the targets of LDN,” it underlines.  As per the study, around 76.87% of the country’s non-forest land offers an opportunity not only to restore degraded areas but also to increase the tree cover outside conventional forest areas through eco-restoration and landscape-specific measures.

While the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has identified 10 activities to enhance carbon sinks and forest cover, the paper suggests that targeted interventions are required in states facing desertification or land degradation challenges, along with active community participation and the adoption of agroforestry practices to reduce landscape and community vulnerability.

At least 15 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra -- as per the National Action Plan 2023 can be prioritised for interventions to achieve the LDN targets based on ecological and geographical conditions and extent of degradation. These states account for 25% of the nation’s geographical area, with a total area of 83.78 mha under desertification.

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