Why in News?Land Desertification and Degradation

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised by 10% the amount of degraded land India has agreed to rehabilitate by 2030.
  • This target would be achieved with an emphasis on “degraded agricultural, forest and other wastelands by adopting a landscape restoration approach.”
  • This would also address water scarcity, enhance water recharge in forests, slow down water run-off and retain soil moisture.
What is Desertification?
  • Desertification is a process in which there is a gradual destruction of the biological potential of land which ultimately results in desert-like conditions. In semi-arid and arid areas, the ecosystem is fragile.
  • The process of restoration of the disturbed ecosystem in these areas is very slow.
  • Human interventions like deforestation, mining etc. further hasten the process of desertification in these areas.
  • In India, the problem of desertification is severe in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Punjab which contain areas adjoining the desert (Thar).
Causes of Desertification: Major Reasons for Desertification in India Status in India:
  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation.
  • According to the Desertification Atlas of 2007, the extent of degraded lands in India is over 105 million hectares or about 32 percent of India's areas.
  • As per Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India, 2016, (released by ISRO), 96 million hectares or close to 29 percent of India's area is undergoing degradation.
  • Thus, the extent of desertification has slowed down due to efforts such as land reclamation.

Efforts for Combating Desertification:

  • India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and has submitted several National Reports to UNCCD, including the data of Desertification Atlas, detailing the steps taken to combat desertification.
  • In 2001, a National Action Programme to combat desertification was prepared. Other major programmes to address the issues of desertification and land degradation include:
  • Desert Development Programme.
  • Integrated Watershed Management Programme which is now subsumed under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
  • National Mission on Green India which is a part of National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • National Afforestation Programme.
  • Soil Conservation in the Catchment of River Valley Projects and Flood Prone Rivers.
  • National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas.
  • Fodder and Feed Development Scheme - a component of Grassland Development including Grass Reserves
  • Command Area Development and Management Programme.
Way Forward:
  • More than two billion hectares of degraded land in various parts of the world can be rehabilitated.
  • The techniques include integrated farming, agro-forestry and farmer-managed natural regeneration.
  • Small community initiatives like the closure of degraded lands for grazing, curtailing farming, growing fast-growing plants, raising tall trees that serve as a barrier against winds and sandstorms are very effective.
  • Further sustainable management of soil, water and biodiversity are required for protecting the land from further degradation.
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