Agri Business

‘Intensive irrigation, chemical use add to land degradation’

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 16, 2019 Published on August 16, 2019

Out of 328 million hectares of land in India, around 147 million hectares are experiencing some form of degradation.   -  THE HINDU

Land use change impacts GDP: Report

There is enough scientific evidence to show that intensive irrigation and high chemical use, including fertilisers and pesticides, add to the degradation of land. Certain subsidies such as free electricity and free irrigation water worsen the situation, say experts.

“Perverse incentives” such as free power for groundwater pumping, nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy, minimum support price only for a few crops, which influences crop choice, may be causing degradation of farmlands, said The Energy and Resource Institute’s (TERI) Base Paper on land degradation, prepared by S Vijay Kumar, a Distinguished Fellow with TERI.

As 141 million hectares out of 328.7 million hectares of the country are used for agriculture, faulty land and water management practices in agriculture significantly contribute to land degradation. Soil erosion by wind and water removes topsoil with its organic content. Acidity, alkalinity/salinity of the soil make the soil toxic for agriculture and other uses.

These constitute the principal causes for land degradation. Water-logging, due to natural flooding as well as irrigation, is another significant cause of degradation, both by inundation, and in some cases, by bringing up subsoil toxic chemicals (evaporites) to the soil surface.

Impact on GDP

“Land use change from more productive to less productive uses has a bigger impact on the country’s GDP. Land degradation costs India 2.5 per cent of its GDP,” Pia Sethi, Senior Fellow, Forestry and Biodiversity, TERI, recently told the media at Gurugram. Umakant, Joint Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, noted that the development of rain-fed and degraded land will be needed to fulfil India’s commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030.

Anuradha Singh, Director, Desertification Cell, Ministry of Forests, Environment and Climate Change, said, “For the last one year, we are documenting best practices to avoid land degradation. We will come out with another report. Also, we are working with the States on this issue.”

Remedial measures

Ashok Kumar Jain, adviser, Niti Aayog, said, “Various measures have been taken to tackle land degradation and water use efficiency in agriculture under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP), More Crop per Drop, and Har Khet ko Pani schemes.”

Out of 328 million hectare land of India, around 147 million hectares are undergoing some form of degradation. Experts insist that the management of land, forests and water is very important to ensure that there is at least the required availability of water for each and every part of the country.

Published on August 16, 2019
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