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100 MHA of Arable Land Lost Yearly to Degradation: UNCCD Data

Why is it in the news?

  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) data suggests a significant environmental challenge.
  • From 2015-2019, the world witnessed a loss of around 100 million hectares of productive land annually. Such losses not only affect food production but also disrupt ecological balance and local economies.

More about the news

UNCCD’s Data Dashboard:

  • The dashboard paints a grim picture of the accelerating rate of land degradation.
  • The data, collected from 126 countries, provides a comprehensive view, emphasizing the universality of the issue.


Regions Affected:

  • Eastern & Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean are particularly hard-hit, with degradation affecting a significant 20% of their total land.
  • This means reduced agricultural outputs and potential economic challenges.


Positive Outcomes:

  • Despite widespread degradation, there are success stories. For instance, Botswana has made strides in halting degradation, cutting its affected land almost by half. The Dominican Republic’s efforts in land restoration are commendable, showing a significant decline in degradation.
  • Uzbekistan’s proactive measures against the Aral Sea’s drying, a monumental ecological disaster, demonstrate national commitment to environmental restoration.


Future Projections:

  • The challenge ahead is vast. To meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the world will have to embark on an ambitious journey to restore 1.5 billion hectares by 2030.


Causes of Land Degradation in India:

  • Deforestation: The excessive cutting down of trees for various reasons has stripped the land of its protective cover, increasing vulnerability to erosion.
  • Unsustainable agricultural practices: Practices like monoculture and overuse of chemicals not only deplete the soil of its nutrients but also make it susceptible to erosion.
  • Salinization: An accumulation of salts in the soil reduces its fertility and can be caused by natural processes or poor irrigation practices.
  • Rapid urbanization: As cities expand, land is stripped of its natural vegetation, making it prone to degradation.
  • Industrial pollution: Harmful chemicals and waste from industries contaminate the soil, making it unfit for cultivation.
  • Changing climate patterns: Fluctuating climate patterns intensify land degradation by causing prolonged droughts, shifts in vegetation zones, and increased desertification.


Impact of Land Degradation:

  • Desertification: One of the most visible and devastating effects, where fertile lands transform into deserts, displacing communities and causing resource scarcity.
  • Biodiversity loss: Degraded lands can’t support diverse life forms, leading to reduced biodiversity. This has a cascading effect, potentially leading to the extinction of various species.
  • Reduced carbon sequestration: Healthy soils are vital in the fight against climate change as they absorb carbon dioxide. Degraded soils lack this capability.
  • Increased vulnerability to natural disasters: Erosion-prone lands can trigger natural disasters like landslides, posing a risk to neighbouring communities.
  • Impact on Indigenous communities: Land degradation directly affects Indigenous populations who rely heavily on their lands for sustenance, cultural, and economic reasons.


Measures for Controlling Land Degradation:

  • Afforestation and reforestation: Planting trees can help restore the ecological balance and protect against erosion.
  • Soil conservation: Techniques like contour farming and terracing can reduce runoff and prevent soil erosion.
  • Policies for land conservation: Enacting and enforcing policies can promote sustainable land use and conservation.
  • Adoption of a watershed approach: Using spatial data for micro-watershed planning can rejuvenate degraded lands.
  • Sustainable water management practices: Proper practices can help counter soil salinization and waterlogging.
  • Encouraging judicious use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides: Over-reliance on chemicals harms the soil. Proper usage can prevent contamination and nutrient depletion.
  • Promoting organic farming: Organic farming replenishes the soil and prevents degradation.


Measures Taken by the Indian Government:

  • National level land degradation mapping: ISRO’s initiative will provide comprehensive data on degraded lands, aiding targeted restoration.
  • Commitment to Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN): India’s commitment to restoring 26 million ha by 2030 reflects its dedication to sustainable land use.
  • Bonn Challenge: By pledging to restore 21 million hectares by 2030, India showcases its commitment on the international stage.
  • Government Initiatives: Schemes like the Soil Health Card and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana aim to promote sustainable farming and protect lands.
  • National Afforestation Programme: This initiative by the Environment Ministry promotes the reforestation of degraded forest lands.


Way Forward:

  • Tackling land degradation is a marathon, not a sprint. It demands the collective effort of governments, communities, and individuals.
  • Implementing region-specific sustainable land management practices is crucial. The shared vision should be land degradation neutrality.

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