HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE ON DESERTIFICATION, LAND DEGRADATION AND DROUGHT

  • Recently, a document published by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) named Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas shows that Land Degradation and Desertification has increased significantly in recent years.
  • The Atlas provides a state wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19. It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years, from 2003-05 to 2018-19.
  • Earlier, the Prime Minister delivered a keynote address at the United Nations’ (UN)“High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought” via video conference.

Important points:

  • Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions, particularly drought. It is also caused by human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility.
  • Land degradation within dry land regions (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions) is termed as ‘desertification’.
  • Desertification is the process by which the biological productivity of drylands is reduced due to natural or manmade factors. It does not mean the expansion of existing deserts.
  • Some 97.85 million hectares (29.7%) of India’s total geographical area (TGA) of 328.72 mha underwent land degradation during 2018-19.
  • In 2003-05, 94.53 mha (28.76% of the TGA) underwent land degradation. The number increased to 96.40 mha (29.32% of the TGA) in 2011-13.
  • Some 83.69 mha underwent desertification in 2018-19. This was greater than the 81.48 mha in 2003-2005 and 82.64 mha in 2011-13 that underwent desertification.
  • Around 23.79% of the area undergoing desertification / land degradation with respect to TGA of the country was contributed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
  • India witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in 28 of 31 states and Union territories between 2011-13 and 2018-19, a closer look at data in the atlas showed.

Causes:

  • Loss of soil cover, mainly due to rainfall and surface runoff, is one of the biggest reasons for desertification. It is responsible for 11.01% of the desertification in the country.
  • Cutting forests adversely affect the soil and cause degradation. As urbanization increases, the demand for resources is also increasing.
  • Vegetation degradation is defined as, “the temporary or permanent reduction in the density, structure, species composition or productivity of vegetation cover”.
  • It is found to be responsible for 9.15% of desertification in the country.
  • It results in Badland Topography which itself is an initial stage of desertification.
  • Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded.
  • In 2011-13, water erosion was responsible for 10.98% of desertification in the country.
  • Sand encroachment by wind reduces fertility of the soil making the land susceptible to desertification.
  • It was found to be responsible for 5.46% of the desertification in India.
  • It may exacerbate desertification through alteration of spatial and temporal patterns in temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and winds.

Impact:

  • Land degradation threatens agricultural productivity. It reduces soil health, thus in turn impacting the livelihood of rural people.
  • It is exacerbating climate change events, which in turn, are causing even greater degradation.
  • For e.g. degraded land loses its capacity to absorb carbon-dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is the biggest factor in worsening global warming.
  • Land degradation has resulted in a deterioration in the quantity and quality of both surface and groundwater resources.
  • The dryland population vulnerable to water stress and drought intensity is projected to reach 178 million under the most ideal conditions of 1.5 deg-C warming by 2050.
  • Insecure land tenure affects the ability of people and communities to fight climate change, which is further endangered by land degradation.

SOURCE: THE HINDU ,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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