What do you understand by desertification? What are it’s causes and what steps can be taken to address it? (250 Words)

Mentors Comment:
1. Give the definition of desertification and various dimensions of it
2. List various causes of desertification and analyze them
3. Mention the steps that can be taken to address the growing desertification



Desertification is the process by which the biological productivity of drylands (arid and semiarid lands) is reduced due to natural or manmade factors. It does not mean the expansion of existing deserts. Around 96 million hectares or close to 29% of India’s area is undergoing degradation.

Causes for Desertification-

Man-Made Causes:

  • 1) Overgrazing
    • It reduces the usefulness, productivity, and biodiversity of the land.
    • India lost 31% of grasslands between 2005 and 2015.
  • 2) Deforestation
    • A forest acts as a carbon sink.
    • Deforestation releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere contributing to the greenhouse effect.
  • 3) Farming Practices
    • Slash and burn agriculture exposes state to soil erosion hazards
    • Heavy tilling and over-irrigation disturbs the mineral composition of the soil.
  • 4) Urbanization
    • As urbanization increases, the demand for resources increases drawing more resources and leaving lands that easily succumb to desertification.
  • 5) Climate Change
    • It may exacerbate desertification through alteration of spatial and temporal patterns in temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, and winds.
  • 6) Overexploitation of Resources
    • Increasing demand for land resources due to issues like overpopulation leaves land vulnerable to desertification.

Natural Causes:

  • Natural Disasters
  • Water erosion
    • It results in Badland Topography which itself is an initial stage of desertification.
  • Wind Erosion
    • Sand encroachment by wind reduces the fertility of the soil making the land susceptible to desertification.

Steps taken by the govt. to curb desertification-

  • National Afforestation Programme- It is being implemented for the afforestation of degraded forest lands.
  • National Action Programme to Combat Desertification- It aims to address issues of increasing desertification and to take appropriate actions.
  • Fodder and Feed Development Scheme- It aims to improve degraded grassland and also the vegetation cover of problematic soils like saline, acidic and heavy soil.
  • National Mission on Green India- It’s objective of protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover with a deadline of 10 years.
  • Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India- Combating desertification and land degradation is one of the thrust areas covered by it.
  • Goal 15 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 2030: It declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production.”
  • Recent schemes like Soil health card, PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana, PM Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, etc. aims to promote soil health.
  • The Bonn Challenge: To bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Ending desertification is the best chance the world has to stabilize the effects of climate change, save wildlife species and protect our well-being. Protecting the forest is our mutual responsibility, which should be carried out by people and governments worldwide.

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