Desertification and land degradation status in India, 2011-2013. Graphic: Indian Space Research Organization

By Anuradha Nagaraj
18 August 2016

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than a quarter of India's land is turning to desert and the rate of degradation of agricultural areas is increasing, according to new analysis of satellite images.

A report [pdf] from the Indian Space Research Organization says land degradation - broadly defined as loss of productivity - is estimated at 96 million hectares, or nearly 30 percent of Indian land.

"As a country we should be more than alarmed by this data," said S. Janakarajan, chairman of the South Asia Consortium for Inter-disciplinary Water Resources Studies.

"There is no coherent plan to reverse this process or its impact."

Analysis of satellite mapping shows new areas in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and eastern Indian states like Orissa and Jharkhand turning arid, with nine states together accounting for nearly 24 percent of desertification.

In states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa, more than 50 percent of land is under desertification.

"Population pressure has resulted in over exploitation of land for cultivation, grazing, water resources and deforestation leading to degradation of drylands," Indian minister Jitendra Singh wrote in the report. [more]

Desertification eating into agricultural land in India, satellite images show

Changes in desertification and land degradation status in India, from 2003-2005 to 2011-2013. Graphic: Indian Space Research Organization

Executive Summary

[…] The analysis reveals that 96.40 mha area of the country is undergoing process of land degradation i.e., 29.32% of the Total Geographic Area (TGA) of the country during 2011-13, while during 2003-05 the area undergoing process of land degradation is 94.53 mha (28.76% of the TGA). Analysis shows that around 23.95% (2011-13) and 23.64% (2003-05) of desertification/land degradation with respect to total TGA is contributed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana in descending order. All other remaining states are contributing less than 1% (individually) of desertification/land degradation.

However, the analysis with respect to TGA of the individual states show that Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa are showing more than 50% area under desertification/land degradation, whereas states with less than 10% area under desertification/land degradation are Kerala, Assam, Mizoram, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Arunachal Pradesh.

There is a cumulative increase of 1.87 mha area undergoing process of desertification/land degradation in the country (constituting 0.57% of the TGA of the country) during the time frame 2003-05 and 2011-13. The change analysis carried out for 2011-13 and 2003-05 time frames indicates that around 1.95 mha land has been reclaimed and 0.44 mha land has been converted from high severity to low severity degradation class, indicating improvement. On the other hand, around 3.63 mha productive land has degraded and 0.74 mha land has converted from low severity to high severity degradation class. Further, during this time frame, high desertification/land degradation changes are observed in the states of Delhi, Tripura, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh and Mizoram (11.03-4.34%), whereas Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have shown improvement (-0.11 to -1.27%).

The most significant process of desertification/ land degradation in the country is Water Erosion (10.98% in 2011-13 and 10.83% in 2003-05). The second most significant process is Vegetation Degradation (8.91% in 2011-13 and 8.60% in 2003-05), which is followed by Wind erosion (5.55 % in 2011-13 and 5.58 % in 2003-05).

Area under desertification (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions of the country) during 2011-13 is 82.64 mha; whereas, during 2003-05 it is 81.48 mha. Thus there is a cumulative increase of 1.16 mha area under desertification. The most significant processes of desertification in arid region is observed to be wind erosion and in semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions vegetation degradation and water erosion dominates.

Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India



Blog Template by Adam Every . Sponsored by Business Web Hosting Reviews