Land degradation in India hurts farmers and forest dwellers the most

Source: Down to Earth1, Down to Earth2

What is the news?

The findings of ISRO’s “Land Degradation and Desertification Atlas” has highlighted that, the impact of desertification in India is not uniform throughout the country. It varies across irrigation system, region etc.

Must read: Despite PM Modi’s assurance, land degradation, desertification increasing
Impact
Based on type of irrigation
  • Almost 37 million hectares (mha) of the degraded land in agriculture is unirrigated. And water erosion is the most common reason (80%) for degradation of unirrigated farmland, followed by wind erosion (17%), salinity / alkalinity in land (2%) and water logging (1%)
  • In rainfed areas, a lot of erosion happened because the topsoil remained exposed and got washed away easily with rains.
Impact on forest
  • After unirrigated farmland, forest remains the most vulnerable to degradation, despite the common belief that afforestation is one of the surest solution to land degradation
  • According to the India State of Forest Report 2019, India has a little over 71 mha of forestland. Of this, 30% forestland is degraded, says the land degradation report
  • Vegetation degradation which refers to as reduction in the biomass as a result of deforestation or overgrazing is the major reason for forest degradation.
Impact on North East region
  • According to ISRO data, Mizoram in the North East has been desertifying at the fastest rate in the country. It has lost more than 13% of its land to degradation/desertification in 2018-19 itself
  • Arunachal Pradesh as well as Nagaland witnessed rapid degradation
  • Deforestation and loss of green cover are the main reasons for land degradation and desertification in the region
  • Further, human settlements and water erosion are other main reasons behind increasing vegetation loss and the resulting desertification in these states.
  • As per IPCC, land degradation and climate change fuel each other thus has potential to heighten the climate crisis in the region

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