In Focus: Land Degradation
What is Land Degradation?
- Land Degradation can be termed as the degradation of the quality of land resulting in the reduction of fertility and crop production capacity of the land.
- Land degradation is driven by both by changes in climate or human activities.
- Globally, 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 27, 000 bio-species are lost every year.
What is Desertification?
- When land degradation occurs in dryland areas, more specifically arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, it is referred to as
Major Causes of Land Degradation:
- Extreme weather conditions particularly drought
- Soil erosion
- Poor farming practices and the absence of conservation works
- Buildup of salts in soils
- Loss of vegetation cover due to overgrazing, over exploitation and deforestation
- Invasive alien plant species
- Overuse of irrigation water
- Inappropriate use of marginal land
Impact of Land Degradation
- Loss of agricultural productivity
- Increased risks of floods and erosion leading to the formation of gullies;
- Loss of soil fertility leading to poor crop yields
- Shortage of local surface water resources
- Increased level of salt groundwater
- Propagation of invasive species
- Loss of vegetation
- Threat to biodiversity
- Formation of Sodic soils that create an impermeable crust reducing infiltration resulting in water scarcity
Land Degradation in India:
- In 2011-2013, India’s land degradation area totaled 29.3 percent of India’s total land area, representing an area of 96.4 million hectares (mha).
- This is an increase of 0.57 percent compared with 2003-2005 (an area larger than the state of Nagaland).
- The top processes leading to degradation/desertification in India in both time periods were:
- Water erosion (10.98 percent in 2011-2013)
- Vegetation degradation (8.91 percent) and
- Wind erosion (5.55 percent).
- Overall, the areas affected by vegetation and water erosion increased in 2011-2013, while there was a slight drop in the total area degraded due to wind erosion and salinity, indicating improvement.
- Although 1.95 mha of land was reclaimed or restored between 2003-2005 and 2011-2013, 3.63 mha of productive land degraded during this period.
Note: Land reclamation is bringing back the degraded land into its former state by adopting suitable management practices
States with highest area of lands undergoing degradation/desertification
- Jammu & Kashmir
All these states amounting to 18.4 percent (out of India’s total 29.3 percent) while all the other states each had less than 2 percent of degraded lands.
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
- Desertification was addressed for the first time in 1977 in the United Nations Conference on Desertification.
- This was followed by the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris in 1994, which entered into force in December 1996.
- It is one of the three Rio Conventions, along with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
- The UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.
- The Convention holds a biennial Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention.
Combating Land Degradation in India:
- India is signatory to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD).
- India is committed to combat desertification and land degradation and intends to achieve land degradation neutral status by 2030.
Note: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the nodal Ministry to co-ordinate all issues pertaining to the Convention.
Schemes launched for capacity-building of the stakeholders at multiple levels:
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM)
- Soil Health Card Scheme
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PKSY)
- Per Drop More Crop,
- Swacch Bharat mission,
- Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP) and
- National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
Prevention and Control Measures for Land Degradation:
- Strip farming: It is a practice in which cultivated crops are sown in alternative strips to prevent water movement.
- Crop Rotation: It is one of the agricultural practice in which different crops are grown in same area following a rotation system which helps in replenishment of the soil.
- Ridge and Furrow Formation: Soil erosion is one of the factors responsible for land degradation. It can be prevented by formation of ridge and furrow during irrigation which lessens run off.
- Construction of Dams: It checks or reduces the velocity of run off so that soil support vegetation.
- Contour Farming: It is usually practiced across the hill side and is useful in collecting and diverting the run off to avoid erosion.