India’s Lands Are Turning Into Deserts – And There’s No Going Back
Satellite images show that a drastic change is in progress. (Photo: Reuters)
Satellite images show that a drastic change is in progress. (Photo: Reuters)

India’s Lands Are Turning Into Deserts – And There’s No Going Back

More than a quarter of India’s land is turning to desert and the rate of degradation of agricultural areas is increasing, according to new analysis of satellite images.

A report from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says land degradation —broadly defined as loss of productivity — is estimated at 96 million hectares, or nearly 30 percent of Indian land.

S Janakarajan, chairman of the South Asia Consortium for Inter-disciplinary Water Resources Studies, highlights the situation.

As a country we should be more than alarmed by this data. There is no coherent plan to reverse this process or its impact.
S Janakarajan

Analysis of satellite mapping shows new areas in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and eastern Indian states like Odisha and Jharkhand turning arid, with nine states together accounting for nearly 24 percent of desertification.

In states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa, more than 50 percent of land is under desertification.

Population pressure has resulted in over-exploitation of land for cultivation, grazing, water resources and deforestation leading to degradation of dry lands.
Jitendra Singh, Minister, wrote in the report

The ongoing study, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, was led by the Indian Space Research Organisation and involved 19 other institutes.

It analysed satellite images over an eight-year period to compile the atlas.

This is the first time we are looking at a digital atlas of degradation and it is pointing at newer areas undergoing desertification. It is a ready reckoner to understand where we stand and the impact of land degradation on agricultural productivity.
AS Rajawat, Space Applications Centre.

(Published in arrangement with Reuters.)