Desertification has increased in 90 per cent of states in India

Wednesday 07 June 2017

Increased drying of soil will further precipitate the agrarian crisis in the country

(Credit: Derik van Zuetphen/Flickr)

State of India’s agriculture is back in news. The recent shooting of farmers during a protest in Madhya Pradesh that led to six deaths, and the ongoing protests in Maharashtra for agricultural debt waiver, are two big developments within a week’s time. But these are symptoms of a bigger crisis afflicting agriculture in India.

Increasing desertification of India’s soil, is a fundamental threat to agriculture, according to the recently released State of India’s Environment 2017: In Figures book published by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down To Earth magazine.

According to this report, nearly 30 per cent of India is degraded or facing desertification. Of India's total geographical area of 328.72 million hectares (MHA), 96.4 MHA is under desertification. In eight states—Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh—around 40 to 70 per cent of land has undergone desertification. More to it, 26 of 29 Indian states have reported an increase in the area undergoing desertification in the past 10 years.

Credit: Rajit Sengupta / Kiran Pandey

Desertification is defined as “a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.”

Loss of soil cover, mainly due to rainfall and surface runoff, is one of the biggest reasons for desertification. It is responsible for 10.98 per cent of desertification in the country. Water erosion is observed in both hot and cold desert areas, across various land covers and with varying levels of severity. The next big reason is wind erosion.

Move from news to views and get in-depth reports on issues that matter to you, every fortnight.
Subscribe now »

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.

  • Common sense tells us that there are DESERT PLANTS provided by Mother nature. There are care-free Growth,regenerative CAM plants like Agave and Opuntia from which biofuel/biogaspower/biochar can be obtained. Being CAM plants they act as CARBON SINK. We have vast waste land and huge manpower,both are great assets for development. I have a plan for your kind consideration:
    WASTE LAND UTILISATION – YOUTH ECONOMIC ZONES
    I had been advocating Biofuel from Agave and Opuntia besides Biogas for power production. Unfortunately in India, we are in most cases imitators but not innovators. First Box Type solar cooker was from India. But often we adopt western designs. Unless west recognizes, we don’t recognize.
    Agave's lower lignin content (down to 2.4%) and higher cellulose content (62%) makes it ideal for production of Biofuel. Agave can be inter cropped with Opuntia(Prickly Pear) which will be used to generate biogas for renewable electricity generation. Biogas power generators from KW size upto MW size are commercially available from India, Germany, China, Vietnam etc. The cost of production per Kwh with Opuntia can be as low as US$ 3.00 per million BTU. On an annual basis, one hectare of agave can yield up to ten times the ethanol one hectare of sugarcane in Brazil. Agave to Ethanol\'s CO2 e emissions are lower than sugarcane and corn. Water - footprint -- agave does not have any. Agave uses water, light and soil most efficiently amongst plants/trees on earth. Agave is packed with sugars, on an annual basis one hectare of agave yields up to 10 thousand gallons of ethanol(from its sap/juice) and 6500 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. No other plant in the World has such potential. CAM Plants like Agave and Opuntia act as Carbon Sink.
    Here is a Plan:
    We have SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES (SEZ). Just like that we can start YOUTH ECONOMIC ZONES (YEZ). Wastelands can be given to youth on a lease basis(about 10 acres per youth) and 1o such youth can form a co-operative. They can cultivate fast growing multiple use plants like Agave and Opuntia. Power generation plants can be set up at local level. This way there will be decentralised power. This fits in Mahatma Gandhiji\'s Concept of AGRO INDUSTRIES utilising local resources and resourcefulness. Youth can be given short term training in Agricultural operations. This way we can provide employment to Youth besides bringing waste and vacant land under cultivation. What is more, large plantations of Agave and Opuntia lead to climate Stability as both are CAM plants. Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions. In a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acid malate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency. Developing countries like ours which have millions of hectares of waste lands can transform rural economy by going in for Agave and Opuntia plantations on a massive scale.
    PVC PIPES IN FARM IRRIGATION TO SAVE WATER:
    Today many farmers have farm water irrigation through open canals where there will be water seepage losses and evaporation. In 1970 we had cement pipes made locally for irrigation. Unfortunately the coconut trees nearby roots penetrated into the cement pipes(made locally) and they broke. So we run now the water in open canals.
    I suggest Union Government can draw a scheme to finance PVC pipes for Irrigation to medium and small Farmers for irrigation at low interest rates. It can be Joint programme between Centre and State Governments.
    Hundreds of Crores of Rs were spent on “Inkudu Guntalu” Percolation Pits . The results are discouraging. On the other hand it makes sense to conserve already available water for irrigation of Fields through PVC pipes from Evaporation of water and seepage.
    Big irrigation Projects takes years to get completed besides many clearances. Small projects of Water Saving involving millions of Farmers are needed to bring rural prosperity and higher agricultural production. Farmers are the backbone of the Nation.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

    Posted by: Anumakonda Jagadeesh | 5 months ago | Reply
Scroll To Top