Soil and Land Degradation in India
The land serves as the storehouse of all the nutrients that are essential for the living beings including plants that grow on them. The more productive is the land, the demands of its inhabitants are met in a better way. They can rely upon their land the way a baby relies upon his mother for all his requirements. But unfortunately, they tend to forget that their land too has certain limitations. The tremendous rise in the population has led to increase in these limitations. India holds about 18% of total world population and 15% of total livestock population but the total geographical area including the pasture lands is just 3.5% which is way to less for them. Even the availability of agricultural land has decreasing noticeably, over the years.
The Scenario of Soil Degradation in India
Of the total geographical area of India (328.5 million hectares), the total cultivated area is approximately 11 million hectares. About 40% of this area is used for irrigation and remaining 60% of it depends upon rain for irrigation. The erosion due to water and wind has been degrading this land to a large extent. The land needs the improvement in quality so that the total production every unit may be improved. While the part of land that is fed by the rain is less productive owing to it’s too much of dependency upon the rainfall. This leads to fluctuation in productivity all through the years. A major population of rural India lives on this 60% of rain-fed land. They suffer due to unstable production led by the land. When it rains adequately, the production is fine and when it does not, the production is way less.
Causes of Soil Degradation in India
There are several causes of soil degradation in India:
The ever-increasing population
– Due to this factor, the ration of land and population has been disturbed badly.
Without trees, erosion can occur and sweep the land into rivers and when farmers cannot find suitable agricultural land, they tend to clear forests for agricultural land
Insecure Property Rights
- this is yet another factor responsible for soil degradation and is recognized as market and institutional failure.Use of chemicals
- Overuse of chemicals and pesticides not only reduces the quality of soil but also disrupts the balance of microorganisms in the soil
Assessments Done on Soil Degradation in India
Several agencies have been researching and assessing on the soil degradation in India. They have come up with different results owing to differences in the approaches and definitions of soil degradation that they followed while assessing. These agencies are Society for Promotion of Wasteland Developments, National Commission on Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, National Remote Sensing Agency and National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS&LUP).
There are many problems related to the land and soil degradation being faced in various parts of the country. As per the reports by NBSS&LUP, about 146.82 million hectare of land is facing various types of land degradation including water erosion, wind erosion, flooding, soil acidity, oil alkalinity.
Need of the Hour
Realizing any issue is not all! A lot needs to be done while implementing various schemes and programmes and before that, an approach is needed for their correct implementation. Following are some requirements that are actually the need of the hour:
- Evolving a system to resolve the issues due to lack of scientific accounting system
- Suitable management of land and water use
- Adoption of a comprehensive approach for workability of policies involving forest and soil conservation and the available water resources.
- Encouraging the participation of local people in project implementation
- Corrective measures to combat institutional failures
Measures taken to Resolve the Soil Degradation Problem
Realizing the problem of land and soil degradation, the government has taken several measures to combat the problem. Several watershed development projects have been carried by various ministries – Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Environment & Forests and Ministry of Agriculture. These projects are:
- National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas
- Soil Conservation in the Catchments of River Valley Project & Flood Prone River
- Drought Prone Area Programme
- Watershed Development Project in Shifting Cultivation Areas
- Integrated Wasteland Development Programme
- National Afforestation & Eco-Development Project
Apart from these, some more projects have been carried on by the ministries. These projects are Externally Aided Projects which are aided by technical and financial aid by external agencies.
Programmes for Development of Degraded Lands by Ministry of Agriculture
These programmes are:
- The Soil and Land Use Survey of India – facilitating various soil surveys
The Soil Conservation Training Center at Damodar Valley Corporation imparts training to the officials employed for this programme.
- Centrally Sponsored Programme
This programme comprises Soil Conservation in the River Valley and Flood Prone River, the Programme for Reclamation of Alkali Soil known as Reclamation and Development of Alkali and Acid Soil, and the State Land Use Board.
Programmes for Developmental Degradation by RFS Division
The major programmes are:
- National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas
- National Rainfed Area Authority
- Rainfed Area Development Programme
Several NGOs like Ekta Parishad have come up to work towards this direction. They have been working towards spreading awareness among the masses about this grave problem and the impact they would be laying on them. Several measures has been implemented yet much more needs to be done which is possible only through active participation of each and every member of the all the communities.