Book Published “Degraded and Wastelands of India Status and Spatial Distribution”

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Sustainable agricultural development and food security will be one of the key challenges for India in this century. Around 70% of the India’s population is living in rural area with agriculture as their livelihood support system. The vast majority of Indian farmers are small and marginal. Their farm size is decreasing further due to population growth. And the quality of the land is deteriorating due to heightened nutrient mining, soil erosion, increasing water scarcity, adverse impacts of climate change and accumulation of toxic elements in soil and water. Land degradation, like climate change, is an anthropogenicinduced process and poses biggest threat to sustainable livelihood security of the farming communities across the country. All of these factors combined with increased rate of land degradation are contributing towards decline in agricultural productivity leading to food insecurity. Since land resources are finite, requisite measures are required to reclaim degraded and wastelands, so that areas going out of cultivation due to social and economic reasons are replenished by reclaiming these lands and by arresting further loss of production potential. State level and Country level information has already been published by the National Remote Sensing Agency (now NRSC). The first order need of the day, therefore, is to prepare a national degraded and wastelands map downscaled to districts. In addition, the nature and causes of the land degradation, and the degree and extent of damaged lands need to be determined, so that developmental agencies in participation with stakeholders proactively adopt measures to reclaim degraded lands for distancing food insecurity, a real challenge.

This book builds-on and integrates work done by different institutes of the ICAR and the Department of Space in the area of degraded and wastelands. It has 11 chapters and chapterwise contents are outlined herewith. Chapter 1 Introduction, narrates problems associated with loss of productivity and soil quality. Centrality of land resources in relation to climate change, environmental concerns and loss of biodiversity are also discussed both in the national and global perspectives. Chapter 2 on Historical Background reviews efforts made over the last half a century by the Ministry of Agriculture, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, National Wasteland Development Board, and the National Remote Sensing Agency (now National Remote Sensing Centre) to classify and map degraded soils and wastelands. This chapter also traces steps taken over the past decade to refine common categories of wastelands in the maps produced by the NRSA and the soil degradation map of the NBSS&LUP. Chapter 3, Geographical Scenario of India defines location, diversity of climates, physiography of the country and their impacts on the development of varied soils, landforms and land use. Chapter 4, Generation of Input Datasets describes data sources for mapping land degradation by incorporating datasets on water erosion, wind erosion, soil acidity and soil salinity generated through collaborative efforts of the ICAR Institutes. Chapter 5, Methodology describes harmonization process developed in the GIS core and followed for obtaining realistic estimates of the degraded and wastelands. Chapter 6, Spatial Distribution of Degraded and Wastelands contains resultant map of the harmonization exercise showing degraded and wastelands of India by various degradation processes. Chapter 7 describes detailed distribution of area of the various categories of degraded and wastelands in 20 AERs. The AER-based data can be used to simulate abiotic stressed land resources availability, use and production potentials.

Extent and distribution of degraded and wastelands in different states of India is given in Chapter 8. This chapter contains maps and statistics, statewise and districtwise of the degraded and wastelands. The datasets on the kinds of land degradations, their area and spread are tabulated and mapped. And the land resource inventory is georeferenced and can be used for launching programmes to rehabilitate and vegetate degraded and wastelands. Chapter 9 discusses severity ranking of different states for different types of degraded lands. Chapter 10 describes scientific and technical relevance of this study. The importance of the data and spatial distribution of the degraded lands across the country in agroecological regions and in states/districts for planning departments is included for implementation of conservation agriculture. Chapter 11 enlists operational use of maps of datasets on degraded and wastelands by various ministries of the Government of India, the NGOs, and by the public institutions at large.

To bring this important document in this format lots of efforts have been made by different agencies, and many personnel were involved at various stages. We would like to express our sincere thanks to all. Dr R.K. Batta, who technically scrutinized the document, deserves a foremost place of appreciation with particular reference to his ability to work relentlessly. Dr H.M. Pateria and Dr M. Osman have been a great help to check scientific and technical names besides providing some additional beneficial information for improving this document. Dr T.P. Trivedi (Project Director), DIPA and his team deserves special thanks for bringing out this publication in time.

We also duly acknowledge help rendered by personnel of the NBSS&LUP, specially to Shri Sunil Meshram for processing all maps using GIS, and Smt Rohimi Watekar for word-processing the job. Support given by the staffmembers of the Director’s Technical Cell of the institute is also duly recognised. The administrative support provided by Shri Rakesh Kumar, Sr Administrative Officer and Shri Sachin Agnihotri, Administrative Officer is duly acknowledged. The staff of the NAAS secretariat, led by Shri H.C.Pathak, Executive Secretary, also provided all necessary support wherever required. Ms Minu Tiwari, Mr Umesh Rai and P. Krishna were of great help at various stages of finalization of this book. We would be failing in our duty if we do not recognize two other persons, Dr S.M. Virmani, who facilitated all inter-organizational meetings, mentored analyses of the databases and encouraged the NBBS&LUP to complete this assignment, and in the same vein to Ms Shashi A. Verma, Editor (English) for copy-editing the book, for offering helpful suggestions, enthusing authors for finalization of document, formatting chapters and for overseeing compilation of the draft for final printing. Without their help, we believe, the book would not have been placed in its framework and architecture. Both of them were a great source of inspiration and continued support throughout the process of completing this book.

Finally, we would like to place on record our sincere thanks to Dr S. Ayyappan, Director-General, ICAR, and Secretary, DARE, Dr Mangala Rai, President, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Dr A.K. Singh, Deputy Director-General (Natural Resource Management), ICAR, for committing all necessary support for completing this task in the defined time-frame.

(A.K. Maji) (G.P.Obi Reddy) (Dipak Sarkar)