Land Use and Land Problems in India

Land use

Out of the total geographical area (328 million hectares), land utilization statistics are available for 305 million hectares only.

The balance 23 million hectares remains unsurveyed and inaccessible.

The significant features of land utilization are :

[1] high percentage of area suitable for cultivation

[2] limited scope for further extension of cultivation and

[3] small area under pastures despite a large bovine population


Presently, a little more than 40 million hectares of land is not available for cultivation.

The area under this category has shown a decline from 50.7 million hectares in 1960- 61 to 40.8 million hectares in 1990-91.

There has been a marginal decline in fallow land from 9.9% in 1950-51 to 7.5% in 1990-91.

Cultivable wastelands also witnessed an appreciable decline of 34% between 1950-51 and 1990-91.

During 1950-51 and 1990-91, the net sown area has witnessed a notable increase of about 20%. This area in 1950-51 was 118.7 million hectares which increased to 142.4 million hectares in 1990-91.

Only 14% of the net sown area or 41.7 million hectares produced two or more crops in 90-91.

Surprisingly, only 5% of the land is under permanent pastures and grazing in a country with the largest bovine population of the world.

Land under non-agricultural use has increased with the accelerated growth in the economy.

The process of industrialization and urbanization demands more land under roads, railways, airports, human settlements and industries not excluding huge multi-purpose dams.

In 1950-51, the total area under non-agricultural use was 9.3 million hectares which increased to 21.2 million hectares in 1990-91.

Contrary to general belief, the percentage of land under forest is one of the lowest in the world.

Forests occupy not more than 22% of the total geographical area of the country, while the world average is 30%.

According to land use statistics, the area under forests has increased from 40 million hectares in 1950-51 to 68 million hectares in 1990-91.

It is much below the desired national goal of one-third of the total area.

Thus, land use is a dynamic process.

It changes over time due to a number of factors, including increasing population, changes in cropping system and technology.

As the various sectors of the economy develop, there may be a shift in the pattern of land use.


Land Problems

Out of the total land area, as many as 175 million hectares suffer from degradation.

Land degradation is caused largely by soil erosion, but also by waterlogging and excessive salinity.

The most serious threat to the soil is posed by deforestation.

Heavy rainfall during monsoon damages the soils.

Steep slopes encourage rapid runoff leading to soil erosion especially on the southern slopes of the Himalayas and the western slopes of the Western Ghats.

Major portions of the Himalayas are prone to landslides and erosion.

Wind erosion is prevalent in Rajasthan, gully erosion in Chambal Valley, Chotanagpur, Gujarat, Submontane Punjab Himalaya.

Waterlogging and salinization which constitute the second major threat to soil have already consumed 13 million hectares and threatening many more.

The lands affected are mostly situated in canal irrigated areas.

The land is also degraded due to mining operations in many parts of the country. The total land area affected is about 80 thousand hectares by mining.

Urban encroachment on good quality agricultural land is another problem by which the amount of land used for agriculture is steadily declining.


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