A desertification/land degradation status mapping effort by researchers from the Indian Space Applications Centre in collaboration with 17 other agencies and institutions found that 81.45 million hectares—24.78% of the total geographic area, TGA, of the country—is undergoing desertification. The total area undergoing processes of land degradation is 105.48 million hectares (32.07% of TGA). A paper on their work was published in Current Science, a journal of the Indian Academy of Sciences.
India occupies only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area, yet supports about 16.7% of the world’s human population; it has only 0.5% of the world’s grazing land but supports 18% of the world’s cattle population. Thus there is tremendous pressure on our land-based natural resources. India is endowed with a variety of soils, climate, biodiversity and ecological regions.
About 50.8 Mha land area (15.8% of the country’s geographical area) is arid, 123.4 Mha (37.6%) is semi-arid and 54.1 Mha (16.5%) area falls in the dry subhumid region. All put together, about 228 Mha area, i.e. 69% of the geographic area of the country is dry land (arid, semiarid and dry subhumid). Appropriate action plan for arresting land degradation and desertification requires information on the area and the spatial distribution of the land undergoing different processes of degradation.—Ajai et al.
Water erosion (26.21 Mha), wind erosion (17.77 Mha), vegetal degradation (17.63 Mha) and frost shattering (9.47 Mha) are the major processes of desertification in India. There are about eight major processes of land degradation active in the country. Water erosion is the most pronounced process, followed by vegetal degradation and eolian processes.
|Desertification/land degradation status map of India. Source: Ajai et al. Click to enlarge.|
Ajai, A. S. Arya, P. S. Dhinwa, S. K. Pathan and K. Ganesh Raj (2009) Desertification/land degradation status mapping of India. Current Science Vol. 97, No. 10