India is the 7th
largest country in the world with a geographical area of about 3.28 million square kilometres.
Land in India can be divided into three main relief features. Around 30% of our land is occupied by mountains, 43% is plain and 27% is in the form of plateau. Depending on their use, our land resources can be classified as forests, net sown area or total area under cultivation, fallow lands, other uncultivated land and land not available for cultivation.
Fallow land can be further divided into current fallow, which is land not cultivated for one or less than one year, and other than current-fallow, which is land that has remained uncultivated for one to five years. Uncultivated land other than fallow land is divided into permanent pastures, land under miscellaneous tree crops and land left uncultivated for more than five years.
Land not available for cultivation is either barren wasteland or land used for non-agricultural purposes.
The area under forests is way below the required 33% as planned in the National Forest Policy formulated in 1952. Permanent pastures and grazing grounds decreased during the period. Continuous and indiscriminate use of land resources results in land degradation. Deforestation removes the green cover required to protect soil erosion.
Overgrazing by cattle has converted permanent pastures into barren land, leading to land degradation. Indiscriminate deforestation and excavation done as part of mining activity and quarrying also causes land degradation.
Over-irrigation of cultivated land in some parts of India leads to water logging. This increases the saline and alkaline levels in the soil, leading to land degradation. Disposal of solid and liquid waste by industries on surrounding land or water bodies has also become a major cause of land degradation and water pollution. Industrial activities like grinding of limestone, calcite and soapstone, which release dust, retards water infiltration into the soil.
Some steps for land conservation are:
- Controlled grazing and mining activity,
- Stabilisation of sand dunes by growing thorny bushes,
- Proper disposal of industrial effluents after treatment and
- Continuous monitoring of soil conditions