Saving the land for better use
- “Arresting land degradation” was included among the top priorities by the G20 Working Group on Environment and Climate Sustainability. This issue is highly relevant to India, which has to support 18 percent of the world’s population on only 2.4 per cent land.
Present state of land degradation in India
- Economic loss: In India, the economic loss due to land degradation and changes in land use pattern was estimated in 2014-15 at Rs 3.17 trillion equivalent to 2.5 percent of that year’s gross domestic product.
- Low per capita availability of arable land: The per capita availability of arable land has shrunk from 0.48 hectare in 1950 to merely 0.16 hectare now which is much lower than the global average of 0.29 hectare.
- Land degradation of States: Almost all states have reported an expansion in degraded areas during the past couple of decades, with the most rapid deterioration in land quality being in the biodiversity-rich but ecologically sensitive north-eastern region.
- Rajasthan is the most land degradation-prone state for understandable reasons pertaining to soil and climatic conditions followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Causes of land degradation
- The major causes of the land degradation are
- wind and water erosion
- imprudent alteration of land use
- excessive pressure on land beyond its carrying capacity
- flawed farm practices
- imbalanced use of chemical fertilisers
- inadequate application of organic manures
- indiscriminate tillage.
- Land degradation neutrality commitment: India is among the 123 countries that have committed themselves to achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030.
- This essentially means upgrading land to a state where it can perform its normal ecological functions and services, including supporting biodiversity, ensuring food security, and meeting other needs.
- Updated target of land restoration: India had originally set the target of land restoration at 21 mha and it raised it to 26 mha during the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, held in 2019.
- Current pace of restoration of degraded land (average rate of reclamation of around 1.4 mha a year) would need to be stepped up only marginally to hit the target of ameliorating 26 mha of degraded land by 2030.
- The stability and sustainability of the reclaimed land has to be ensured.
- Steps are also needed to safeguard the physical, chemical, and biological health of the existing normal land.
- Investment in land improvement is needed.
- Meticulous enforcement of a judicious land use policy based on the capability classification of land is the need of the hour.
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