Monday, December 28, 2009

Dry land the biggest challenge for India

‘DESERTIFICATION AND Land Degradation’ Atlas developed by the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, with 17 other national agencies reveals that one fourth of total geographical area of India is a desert. Another 32 per cent land is degraded land, which is almost at par with the global average of 33 per cent. Irrigation is the biggest challenge as 69 per cent of the country’s area is classified as ‘dry land’.

This unique atlas is based on the satellite data and presents state-wise mapping of the status of land degradation and the reasons for it. This will provide authentic data to agencies working on arresting land degradation. There are several scattered reports on land degradation status. This is the first exhaustive baseline data which can be used for future monitoring of desertification.

The land degradation causes include water erosion, vegetal degradation, wind erosion, salinisation/ alkanisation, water-logging, frost heaving, frost shattering and mass movement. Water erosion contributes maximum 10.21 per cent of the land erosion followed by vegetal degradation (9.63 per cent) and wind erosion (5.34 per cent). India is the fifth country to develop such an exhaustive atlas. India is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) since June 1994.

The Western states of India are covered by the Great India Desert – Thar spread over 2,00,000 square kilometer area. It is further expanding at a rate of about a half kilometer per year. Rajasthan accounts for 21.77 per cent desertification of India’s total geographical area. Next three states undergoing high rate of land degradation are Jammu and Kashmir (12.79 per cent), Gujarat (12.72 per cent) and Maharashtra (12.66 per cent).

The only positive news is that Gujarat has taken initiative to make systematic plans towards the environmental issues. It first went ahead for the Narmada Dam ignoring non-government organisation (NGO) protests under various political outfits. Narmada today, is the lifeline of one-third state. It is the leading state to use green fuel and environment friendly power generation plans. The similar approach is needed by the neighbouring states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra to stop growth of the desert area.

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