Write a basic definition of desertification in introduction.
Then try to bring out areas/regions being impacted by it in India.
Then elaborate some of the major reasons for increasing desertification in India.
Finally give the steps take so far in combating it and analyse the effectiveness of those steps.
Desertification is land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.
In India, a rough estimate by environmental reports tells that nearly 30% area i.e. 96.4 MHA out of 328.72 MHA is degraded or facing desertification. In eight states, Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Tripura and Himachal Pradesh- around 40% to 70% of land has undergone desertification. Twenty-six out of Twenty- nine states have reported an increase in the area undergoing desertification in the past 10 years.
Desertification occurs due to both anthropogenic and natural factors which can be summarized as the following:
Soil erosion due to land and water: It is responsible for around 16% of desertification in India. Even mining leads to erosion of soil nutrients. Vegetation destruction by deforestation and overgrazing to accommodate the need of growing population, accelerates desertification.
Farming Practices: Agricultural activities in the vulnerable ecosystems along with excess use of water, fertilizers and pesticides leads to erosion of nutrients, increase in salinity resulting into desertification.
Urbanization and land development projects: These put huge pressure on land which is expected to grow further in future.
Climate Change: As the days get warmer and periods of drought become more frequent, desertification becomes more and more eminent.
India being a signatory to UNCCD has taken many steps to combat desertification such as:
National Action Programme to Combat Desertification, Integrated Watershed Management Programme, National Afforestation Programme, Fodder and Feed Development Scheme etc.
However, the gradual increment of desertification shows that steps taken by the government have not been very effective. This can be attributed to reasons such as shortage and weakness of institutional and human capacity, lack of dedicated funds, need of coordination among concerned ministries, disproportionate attention to planning than implementation etc. Thus, government intervention needs to be streamlined with equal focus on both curative and preventive measures, which needs to be then periodically reviewed to check the impact on desertification.