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Biodiversity & Environment

Integration of Land and Water Schemes to Tackle Land Degradation

  • 06 Aug 2019
  • 5 min read

As about 30% of India’s land is degraded, the Government of India wants to converge various land and water schemes to mainstream land degradation issues in national programmes.

  • India aims to be land degradation-neutral by 2030, where any increases in land degradation are balanced by equivalent gains in land reclamation to ensure no additional net loss of land-based natural capital.
  • While budgets available for all land- and water-related schemes in Centre and States are enough to solve the problem, there is a need to bring convergence to utilise these resources better.
  • The 14th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14) to the UNCCD will be held from September 2-13 in New Delhi where Governments are expected to agree on strategic and effective land use and sustainable land management goals.


  • The TERI report titled ‘Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in India’ stated that while loss of productive land for various ecosystems is a concern, a larger concern is the degradation of existing ecosystems.
  • The annual economic costs of land degradation and land use change in the country have been estimated at ₹3,17,739 crore, which is 2.54 per cent of India’s GDP in 2014-15 and about 15.9 per cent of the GVA from agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.
    • Almost 82 per cent of the estimated cost is on account of land degradation and only 18 per cent due to land use change.The land area that is likely to be degraded in 2030 under these two different scenarios is projected at 94.53 mha and 106.15 mha.
  • The area affected by water erosion and area under open forests (as compared with moderately dense and very dense forests) is projected to rise in both scenarios, suggesting that India will need to strengthen reclamation efforts in these sectors.

Classification of Forest Cover

  • The forest cover is broadly classified into 4 classes, namely very dense forest, moderately dense forest, open forest and mangrove.
  • Mangroves have been separately classified because of their characteristic tone and texture and unique ecological functions.
  • The other classes include scrub and non-forest. These classes are defined is below.
Very dense Forest All Lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density of 70% and above
Mod Dense forest

All lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 40% and 70% above

Open forest All lands with tree cover (Including mangrove cover) of canopy density between 10% and 40%
Scrub All forest lands with poor tree growth mainly of small or stunted trees having canopy density less than 10 percent
Non Forest Any area not included in the above classes

Causes of Land Degradation

  • Population Pressure
  • Climate Change
  • Soil Pollution
  • Land use change
  • Deforestation
  • Poor farming practices
  • Overgrazing
  • Over irrigation
  • Urban sprawl

Government Efforts to Check Land Degradation

  • India is focusing on sustainable land and resource management for livelihood generation at community level for making the local lands healthier and productive for providing a better homeland and a better future for its inhabitants.
  • The National Action Programme for combating desertification was prepared in 2001 to take appropriate action in addressing the problems of desertification.
  • Some of the major programmes which address issues related to land degradation and desertification, being implemented currently are as follows:
  • Apart from this numerous outreach programmes and awareness activities have also been conducted across the country.
  • Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India released in 2016, compares status of 2003-05 and 2011-2013 and provides baseline data for prioritizing action based on vulnerability and risk assessment.

Source: BL

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