20 mn tonnes of potential food production hit by land degradation
According to a ministry-sponsored report, the total cost of land degradation, desertification and drought was 2.54% of India’s GDP in 2014-15.
The world is losing 20 million tonnes of potential food production because of land degradation a year because 23 hectares of dryland is lost per minute to drought and desertification, according to environment minister Harsh Vardhan.
The country, however, has no specific policy to tackle the problem. “In India, total land area under land degradation is 96.40 million hectares, which is 29.32% of the country’s total geographical area,” Harsh Vardhan said at a workshop in Delhi on Tuesday.
The total cost of land degradation, desertification and drought was 2.54% of the GDP in 2014-15, according to a ministry-sponsored report prepared by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri). These are conservative estimates, experts say, the figure might be closer to 4-5%.
India has committed to land degradation neutrality by 2030 under the Sustainable Development Goals, “which is ensuring that the country reclaims land to compensate for the ecosystem services lost and maintain the quality of non-degraded land”.
Degradation, desertification and drought erode the quality of land and adversely impact productivity, biodiversity and water availability. According to the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas released by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) in 2016, about 30% of India’s land was undergoing degradation.
“We don’t have a policy yet,” Jigmet Takpa, joint secretary, ministry of environment, said, adding “There is no ministry directly dealing with it.”
JVSharma, director, forestry and biodiversity division at Teri, said, “Land Degradation Neutrality is important for food security, sustained ecosystem services and sustained livelihood of the poorest of the poor of the country.”
The ministry of environment that is the nodal agency for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. However, at present, it is only monitoring and reporting the land degradation status.