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  • 04 October, 2022

  • 7 Min Read

Desertification and Land Degradation

Desertification and Land Degradation

Major Points:

Rising Degraded Land:

  • At least 30% of India's total geographic area falls under the category of "degraded land," according to the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas 2021.

Data by State:

  • More than 50% of the land in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat, and Goa is being degraded or turned into desert.
  • States with less than 10% land degradation include Kerala, Assam, Mizoram, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Arunachal Pradesh.


  • As a result of a promise made during the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the government increased its objective for restoring degraded land from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares by 2030 in 2019. (COP14).
  • The government is far from achieving this goal nearly three years later.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development has been working to help fulfil the international pledge, but the pandemic's economic burdens have limited the objective to 4.95 million hectares by 2025–2026.

Convergence Suggestion: Using MGNREGS Funds

  • Currently, the Ministry of Rural Development's Department of Land Resources is responsible for tasks such ridge area treatment, drainage line treatment, soil and moisture conservation, rainfall collection, nursery raising, afforestation, horticulture, and pasture development.
  • The MGNREGS funds, which are allocated for both material and wage components, are currently being requested by the Union government from the States to be used for these operations.
  • According to the Ministry's own calculations, convergence with the MGNREGS would enable the treatment of around 30% more land than is currently possible given the size of the system.

Degradation of the land


  • It is a short-term or long-term decline in the productivity of land brought on by physical, chemical, or biological processes.


Numerous factors, such as :

  • Harsh meteorological conditions, particularly drought, contribute to land degradation.
  • Overgrazing of the land by the livestock also increases land degradation as the upper cover of the soil is consumed by the animals.
  • Additionally, it is brought on by human activities that deteriorate or impair soil quality and land usability.


  • A type of land deterioration known as desertification occurs when rich land turns into a desert.
  • Sand from the desert moves forward and into the nearby areas as a result.
  • Fertile soil is covered by sand, which reduces its fertility.
  • In Rajasthan, this issue is particularly severe in places close to the Thar desert.

Degradation Impact:

  • Environmental Impact: Soil erosion, loss of natural nutrients, water logging, salinity, and contamination of ground and surface water are all issues brought on by land degradation.
  • Fertility loss brought on by the application of numerous scientific inputs, such as irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides, etc. Additionally, damaging crop techniques are unscientific methods.
  • The process of soil erosion is when the topsoil separates from the ground and is either swept away by water, ice, or sea waves, or it is blown away by the wind.
  • Due to excessive irrigation or heavy rainfall, areas with a temporary water surplus and high temperatures experience salinity or alkalinity. Large swaths of productive land are rendered infertile by the salt layer, which has a negative impact on the fertility of topsoil.
  • Waterlogging occurs when the water table becomes saturated for a variety of reasons, including excessive irrigation, canal seepage, insufficient drainage, etc.

Possibly Negative Effects on Human Health

  • Production of food, livelihoods, as well as the creation and delivery of other ecosystem goods and services are all negatively impacted.
  • Reduced food and water availability poses greater risks for malnutrition, while also increasing the likelihood of water- and food-borne illnesses due to poor sanitation and a lack of clean water, respiratory illnesses brought on by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants, and the spread of infectious diseases as populations move.

Global Initiatives to Fight Land Degradation

United Nations Convention to Combact Desertification (UNCCD)

  • Established in 1994
  • Goal: To safeguard a more secure, equitable, and sustainable future by preserving and restoring our land.
  • The UNCCD is the only framework for addressing desertification and the effects of drought that is legally binding.
  • The Convention has 197 Parties, including the European Union and 196 individual countries.
  • The Participation, Partnership, and Decentralization (PPD) pillars form the foundation of the Convention.

Bonn Challenge:

  • It is the ambition of the world to restore 150 million hectares of damaged and deforested landscapes by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030
  • The Challenge, which was started by the German government and IUCN in 2011, saw commitments surpass the 150 million hectare mark in 2017.
  • The African Union's 2007 Great Green Wall Initiative is being carried out in 22 African nations.
  • Goal: To improve the Sahel region's millions of lives while restoring the continent's damaged landscapes.
  • By 2030, the goal is to sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon, repair 100 million hectares of currently damaged land, and generate 10 million green employment.

Initiatives by India:

Land degradation mapping at the national level:

  • Under the Natural Resources Census (NRC) mission of DOS/ISRO, it is undertaken by ISRO in collaboration with partner universities in order to produce information on land degradation at a scale of 1:50,000 using 23m resolution (multi-temporal & multi-spectral) IRS data.

Indian Atlas of Desertification and Land Degradation:

  • Space Application Centre (SAC), ISRO, Ahmedabad, published.
  • Content: Lists the total area of degraded lands per state for the years 2018–19.
  • Gives the change analysis for a 15-year period, from 2003–2005 to 2018–19.

United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD)

  • India has ratified the UNCCD.
  • In September 2019, India served as the host country for the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • India is working to meet its national objectives to achieve "Land Degradation Neutrality" (LDN) and restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, which place a strong emphasis on the sustainable and effective use of land resources.
  • Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change Ministry is the Nodal Ministry for Implementation (MoEF&CC)

India’s Bonn Challenge pledge

  • India vowed to restore 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020 and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030 as part of the voluntary Bonn Challenge at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris.

Flagship Designs:

  • The Soil Health Card Program
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Synchayee Yojana
  • National Afforestation Program
  • To move closer to fulfilling its national obligations regarding land restoration, the Indian government has taken a collective approach.

Way Forward

  • People who live in drylands will reap long-term socioeconomic gains and have less vulnerability to climate change if desertification, land degradation, and drought are combated.
  • The framework offered by Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), which has conservation, sustainable use, and restoration as its three pillars, is efficient.
  • Policymakers and planners can navigate social, economic, and environmental trade-offs by fostering an environment that supports LDN so that issues like food security, energy demands, land tenure, gender equality, access to clean water, and biodiversity are taken into account and handled together.

Source: The Hindu

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