India treated land the size of 140 football fields from turning into a desert— but it's not enough

  • About 29.32% of the country's geographic area deteriorated between 2011 and 2013.
  • India is quickly moving to save its lands by voluntary watershed management program.
  • More than 30% of the country's land is facing desertification.
India is fast turning into a desert, all thanks to the extreme heat and lack of water. A recent report by TERI says that 29.3% of the country's geographic area deteriorated between 2011 and 2013.

It means as much as 147 million hectares of the country's land, which is at high risk. Though a little late, India is quickly moving to save its lands by voluntary watershed management program.

"The most effective principle of rainfed and degraded area development is the conservation and efficient use of natural resources. It can best be achieved through watershed development, adopting the ridge-to-valley approach,” said Umakant Prasad, Joint Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development explained, the history of India's watershed development program.

As much as 20.4 million hectares of India’s land is being treated and brought under the category of protective variation via watershed development. This land is as large as 140 football fields in size. Still, it is not enough.

"As of now, we are planning to go for another 62-63 million hectares of land that needs to be treated," he said.

The rapid land degradation

Eight states in India are at high risk of facing desertification —Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura, and Himachal Pradesh. In these states, around 40-70% of land has already turned into a desert, said a report by State of 'India's Environment report.

In 2018, India lost 2.54% of its GDP to land degradation, said the report.

“As much as 1.8 billion people in the world are going to face absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world's population will be water-stressed," said United Nations.

Even as the efforts have to be intensified, there is little that the government is able to do. An integrated watershed management programme was introduced in 2009. It came under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana soon after Narendra Modi came to power, in 2014. Though the program is functional, its funding fell by 35% in 2015-16, the first year of policy shift.

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