Despite PM Modi’s assurance, land degradation, desertification increasing

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Source: Down to Earth

Relevance: Causes behind increase in land degradation and desertification

Synopsis: Problem of land degradation and desertification is increasing in India. A brief look at the findings of ISRO’s report on the issue and causes behind it.


Recently, ISRO released the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India, which highlighted that India is not on track to achieve its national commitment of land degradation neutrality.

What is land degradation?

Land degradation within dry land regions (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions) is termed as ‘desertification’.

Findings of the report:
  • 29.7% of India’s total geographical area underwent land degradation during 2018-19
  • Besides land degradation, desertification has also increased. India witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in 28 of 31 states and Union territories between 2011-13 and 2018-19.
  • Most of the degradation and desertification is contributed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana
  • However, land degradation and desertification was declining in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana in 2018-2019.
Must Read: Desertification and land degradation Atlas of India


As a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris signed on June 17, 1994, while speaking at the UN High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, Modi had added that India is working to restore 26 mha of degraded land by 2030

Causes behind land degradation and desertification
  • Loss of soil cover– Loss of soil cover, mainly due to rainfall and surface runoff, was one of the biggest reasons for desertification. According to the atlas, it was responsible for 11% of the desertification in the country
  • Water erosion– it was responsible for 10.98% of desertification in the country in 2011-13
  • Vegetation degradation– it found to be responsible for around 9% of desertification in the country
  • Wind erosion– it found to be responsible for around 5% of the desertification in India
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