In Focus: Land Degradation
What is Land Degradation?
- Land Degradation can be termed as the degradation of the quality of land resulting in the reduction of fertility and crop production capacity of the land.
- Land degradation is driven by both by changes in climate or human activities.
- Globally, nearly one-third of the total geographical area faces degradation which could cost the world roughly $300 billion due to land use change, reduced crop land and decline in productivity.
- A recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has underlined that land everywhere was bearing the brunt of severe climate change already which would lead to extreme food insecurity if steps weren’t taken.
What is Desertification?
- Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its water bodies as well as vegetation and wildlife over a period of time.
Major Causes of Land Degradation:
- Extreme weather conditions particularly drought
- Soil erosion
- Poor farming practices and the absence of conservation works
- Buildup of salts in soils
- Loss of vegetation cover due to overgrazing, over exploitation and deforestation
- Invasive alien plant species
- Overuse of irrigation water;
- Inappropriate use of marginal land
- Veld fires
Impacts of Land Degradation
- Threaten agricultural productivity
- Increased risks of floods and erosion leading to the formation of gullies;
- Loss of soil fertility leading to poor crop yields
- Shortage of local surface water resources
- Increased level of salt groundwater
- Propagation of invasive species
- Loss of vegetation
- Threaten biodiversity
- Sodic soils form an impermeable crust which reduces infiltration resulting in water scarcity
Land Degradation in India:
- India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation.
- Indian land yield is among the lowest in the world. This is because the fertility of land is low in India.
- About 29.3% of the geographical area in India is affected by degradation including desertification due to unsustainable farm practices and deforestation
- The top processes leading to degradation/desertification in India in both time periods were:
- water erosion (10.98 percent in 2011-2013)
- vegetation degradation (8.91 percent) and
- wind erosion (5.55 percent).
- 82% of India’s degraded land lies in just nine states/UT – Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
About: Bonn Challenge
- The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- It is an initiative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030.
- India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.
- Underlying the Bonn Challenge is the forest landscape restoration (FLR) approach.
Note: The Bonn Challenge is not a new global commitment but rather a practical means of realizing many existing international commitments, including the CBD Aichi Target 15, the UNFCCC REDD+ goal, and the Rio+20 land degradation neutrality goal.
About: Forest Landscape Restoration
- Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the ongoing process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human well-being across deforested or degraded forest landscapes.
- FLR is restoring a whole landscape to meet present and future needs and to offer multiple benefits and land uses over time.
About: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
- Desertification was addressed for the first time in 1977 in the United Nations Conference on Desertification.
- United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is one of the 3 Rio Conventions of United Nations, namely, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- It was established in 1994, and came into force in 1996.
- It is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.
- The Convention holds a biennial Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention.
Combating Land Degradation in India:
- India is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD).
- India is committed to combat desertification and land degradation and intends to achieve land degradation neutral status by 2030.
- Land degradation neutrality’ (LDN) is a state where amount and quality of land resources remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems. In other words, India will not have net loss in terms of land degradation if it achieves LDN.
Note: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the nodal Ministry to co-ordinate all issues pertaining to the Convention.
Schemes launched for capacity-building of the stakeholders at multiple levels:
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM)
- Soil Health Card Scheme
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PKSY)
- Per Drop More Crop,
- Swacch Bharat mission,
- Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP) and
- National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
Prevention and Control Measures for Land Degradation:
- Strip farming: It is a practice in which cultivated crops are sown in alternative strips to prevent water movement.
- Crop Rotation: It is one of the agricultural practice in which different crops are grown in same area following a rotation system which helps in replenishment of the soil.
- Ridge and Furrow Formation: Soil erosion is one of the factors responsible for land degradation. It can be prevented by formation of ridge and furrow during irrigation which lessens run off.
- Construction of Dams: It checks or reduces the velocity of run off so that soil support vegetation.
- Contour Farming: It is usually practiced across the hill side and is useful in collecting and diverting the run off to avoid erosion.