As per a recent report by the Environment Ministry submitted to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, more than one-fourth of India’s geographical area is undergoing the process of desertification despite ongoing efforts to tackle the problem.
Key findings of the Report:
- India which has a total geographic area of 328 million hectares is grappling with Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) on 7,91,475 sq km of the territory covering almost all states and union territories of the country.
- The total area undergoing the process of land degradation in the country is estimated at 105.48 million hectares, which forms 32.07% of India’s total land.
- Major challenges remain in the area of land use planning, management of waste and degraded land, and efficient use of water resources.
- India has drylands area of 228.3 million hectares (about 69.6% of total area).
A number of measures have been taken through different channels like Integrated Watershed Management Programme, National Rural Drinking Water Programme, MNREGA, National Rural Livelihood Mission, Green India Mission to address the problem.
What is Desertification?
- Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.
What are the causes of desertification?
There are a number of factors which work individually or in combination causing desertification. The immediate cause is the removal of most vegetation. This is driven by a number of factors such as:
- Climatic shifts
- Tillage for agriculture
- Deforestation for fuel or construction materials
What is the role of vegetation, livestock and wildlife in preventing desertification?
Vegetation plays a vital role in determining the biological composition of the soil. As per studies, the rate of erosion and runoff decreases exponentially with increased vegetation cover. Unprotected, dry soil surfaces blow away with the wind or are washed away by flash floods, leaving infertile lower soil layers that bake in the sun and become an unproductive hardpan. Alternatively, it was found that the movement and migration of large herds of livestock and wildlife has an integral role in the preservation of vegetation and soil fertilization, and that the removal of livestock and wildlife (largely by human influence) has been the main driver of increasing desertification.