Land resources: competing uses of land- food, feed, fuel, and fibre; Mining and Environment

 

Land is a finite resource. Land availability is only about 20% of the earth’s surface. Land is crucial for all developmental activities, for natural resources, ecosystem services and for agriculture. Growing population, growing needs and demands for economic development, clean water, food and other products from natural resources, as well as degradation of land and negative environmental impacts are posing increasing pressures to the land resources in many countries of the world.

India covers an area of 32,87,263 sq km. According to area size, it is the seventh largest country of the world after Russia, Canada, China, U.S.A., Brazil and Egypt. This vast size itself is the most important resource. About 30 per cent of area is covered by the mountains which are source of scenic beauty, perennial rivers, home of forests and wildlife. About 43 per cent of land area is plain which is highly suitable for agriculture. Remaining about 27 percent under plateaus is the store house of minerals and metals.

The land-use categories as maintained in the Land Revenue Records are as follows :

(i) Forests : In India, at present forest areas cover about 76.5 million hectares of land, which is about 23 per cent of the total geographical area. It ranges from about 87 per cent in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to only about 4 percent in Haryana making to range difference of 83 percent. According to our National Forest Policy, 33% of the total geographical area of the country should be under the forest cover to maintain ecological balance.

(ii) Land put to Non-agricultural Uses : Land under settlements (rural and urban), infrastructure (roads, canals, etc.), industries, shops, etc. are included in this category. An expansion in the secondary and tertiary activitieswould lead to an increase in this category of land-use.

(iii) Barren and Wastelands : The land which may be classified as a wasteland such as barren hilly terrains, desert lands, ravines, etc. normally cannot be brought under cultivation with the available technology.

(iv) Area under Permanent Pastures and Grazing Lands : Most of this type land is owned by the village ‘Panchayat’ or the Government. Only a small proportion of this land is privately owned. The land owned by the village panchayat comes under ‘Common Property Resources’.

(v) Area under Miscellaneous Tree Crops and Groves(Not included is Net sown Area) : The land under orchards and fruit trees are included in this category. Much of this land is privately owned.

(vi) Culturable Waste-Land : Any land which is left fallow (uncultivated) for more than five years is included in this category. It can be brought under cultivation after improving it through reclamation practices.

(vii) Current Fallow : This is the land which is left without cultivation for one or less than one agricultural year. Fallowing is a cultural practice adopted for giving the land rest. The land recoups the lost fertility through natural processes.

(viii) Fallow other than Current Fallow : This is also a cultivable land which is left uncultivated for more than a year but less than five years. If the land is left uncultivated for more than five years, it would be categorised as culturable wasteland. (ix) Net Area Sown : The physical extent of land on which crops are sown and harvested is known as net sown area.

 

  • Land and water have been the basic elements of life support system on our planet since the dawn of civilization.
  • All great civilizations, flourished where these resources were available in plenty and they declined or perished with the depletion of these resources.
  • In recent years, the land resource has been subjected to a variety of pressures. Still it is surviving and sustaining mankind.
  • What is alarming in the way land is being used is the tendency towards over-exploitation on account of a number of reasons leading this pristine resource being robbed of its resilience.
  • Of all the species on the earth, man is the chief culprit of this degradation. He views land in terms of its utility, meaning the capability to meet his perceived needs and wants.
  • The most easily categorised varieties of land from the utility point of view are – land fit for use, land with potential for use and land which appears useless at least in the foreseeable future.
  • Here probably lies the genesis of the problem of land degradation and erosion of ecosystems. Mahatma Gandhi had said -“The Earth has enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed”.
  • Preserving, protecting and defending the land resources has been part of our age-old culture. The respect for the importance of land resources is best depicted in the conventional concept of Panchabhutas – land, water, fire, sky and air that constitute a set of divine forces.
  • There are innumerable examples of the traditional conservation practices and systems, which are still surviving and are effective. But with the advent of modern age and the advent of newer forces, this tradition is fast deteriorating mainly on account of – consumerism, materialistic value systems, short-term profit-driven motives and greed of the users

Land Resources

The utilization of land depends upon physical factors like topography, soil and climate as well as upon human factors such as the density of population duration of occupation of the area, land tenure and technical levels of the people.

 

LAND USE IN INDIA

The major land uses in India are:

  • Net sown Area

 

  • Agriculture land means cultivated area, it includes net cropped area and fallow lands. Cropped area in the year under consideration in called net sown area.
  • India stands seventh in the world in terms of total geographical area but second in terms of cultivated land.
  • Net shown Area is about 46%.
  • Percentage wise Punjab and Haryana are highest and Arunachal Pradesh is Lowest (3.2% )
  • The net sown area and the area sown more than once together are called gross cultivated area.
  • Forest Area
  • This includes all land classified either as forest under any legal enactment, or administered as forest, whether State-owned or private, and whether wooded or maintained as potential forest land.
    • The area of crops raised in the forest and grazing lands or areas open for grazing within the forests remain included under the “forest area”.
  • Area under Non-agricultural Uses
    • This includes all land occupied by buildings, roads and railways or under water, e.g. rivers and canals, and other land put to uses other than agriculture.
  • Barren and Un-culturable Land
  • This includes all land covered by mountains, deserts, etc.
  • Land which cannot be brought under cultivation except at an exorbitant cost is classified as unculturable whether such land is in isolated blocks or within cultivated holdings.
  • Permanent Pasture and other Grazing Land
  • This includes all grazing land whether it is permanent pasture/meadows or not.
  • Village common grazing land is included under this category.
  • Land under Miscellaneous Tree Crops, etc.
  • This includes all cultivable land which is not included in ‘Net area sown’ but is put to some agricultural use.
  • Land under trees, thatching grasses, bamboo bushes and other groves for fuel, etc. which are not included under ‘Orchards’ are classified under this category.
  • Culturable Waste Land
  • This includes land available for cultivation, whether taken up or not taken up for cultivation once, but not cultivated during the last five years or more in succession including the current year for some reason or the other .
  • Such land may be either fallow or covered with shrubs and jungles which are not put to any use.
  • Fallow Lands other than Current Fallows -This includes all land which was taken up for cultivation but is temporarily out of cultivation for a period of not less than one year and not more than five years.
  • Current Fallows- This represents cropped area which is kept fallow during the current year

Policies, Acts, Programmes by Govt. on Land Resources

National Land Reforms Policy

  • Abolition of intermediary tenures
  • Tenancy reforms
  • Ceiling on agricultural holdings and redistribution of surplus land
  • Updating and maintenance of land records
  • Consolidation of land holdings
  • Distribution of government wasteland

Drought-prone Areas Programme

  • Minimize adverse effects of droughts on the productivity of land, water and human resources
    • Promote overall economic development and improve the socio-economic condition of poor and disadvantaged sections inhabiting the programme areas Capacity building and empowerment of village community, ensuring participation of Panchayati Raj Institutions and NGOs in programme implementation at grassroots level and transfer of funds as well as decision-making power to the local people
  • Since 1995-96, a watershed development based approach has been adopted

Desert Development Programme (DDP)- 1977-78

  • Mitigate adverse effects of desertification and adverse climatic conditions on crops, human and livestock population
  • Restoration of ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing natural resources, i.e. land, water, vegetative cover, and raise land productivity
  • Capacity building and empowerment of village community, ensuring participation of Panchayati Raj Institutions and NGOs

1985 -National Land Use and Conservation Board

  • Formulate a national policy and perspective plan for conservation, management and development of land resources of the country
  • Review of the progress of implementation of ongoing schemes and programmes connected with conservation and development of land resources and soils
  • Take measures to restrict the conversion of good agricultural land to non– agricultural uses
  • Co-ordinate the work of State Land Use Boards

1985 National Wastelands Development Board (NWDB) 

  • Formulate perspective plan and programmes for the management and development of wastelands in the country
  • Identify the wastelands in the country
  • Review the progress of implementation of programmes and schemes for the development of wasteland
  • Create a reliable data base and documentation centre on related aspects of wasteland development

1989-90 Integrated Wastelands Development Project (IWDP) 

  • Adopt soil and moisture conservation measures such as terracing, bunding, trenching, vegetative barriers, etc
  • Encourage natural regeneration
  • Enhance people’s participation in wasteland development programmes at all stages resulting in equitable sharing of benefits
  • Employment generation, poverty alleviation, community empowerment and development of human and other economic resources of the village
  • Training, extension and creation of awareness among the participants

Strategies for Sustainable Land Management

  • Tenth Five-Year Plan assigns high priorities to area specific programmes such as watersheds, river valleys, arid areas, wastelands.
    • Public policies towards land use and the influence of subsequent land uses on natural resources
    • Coordinate the activities of all line departments and adopt an integrated approach
    • Expansion and intensification of irrigated agriculture
    • Weaknesses in land use policies as well as options that are available to better address natural resource management and conservation issues in the interface
    • Establish the horizontal linkages between various agencies that are involved in land resource management
    • Involve the stakeholders from the planning stage onwards and address other socio-economic and poverty issues in land development programmes
    • The government would take the lead role in capacity building at the grassroot level by planning, implementing and monitoring integrated land resources management programmes
    • Intensification of high-quality rain-fed lands
    • land is not accounted for, especially when land quality deteriorates or the ecosystems functions change
    • Intensification of densely populated marginal lands
    • Increasing women’s access to productive land by regularizing leasing and sharecropping of uncultivated agricultural land by women’s groups, encouraging collective efforts in bringing wastelands under cultivation and providing policy incentives to women in low-input subsistence agriculture, will have immediate benefits for women’s empowerment and household food security
    • Expansion of farming into sparsely populated marginal lands
    • The rise of urban and periurban farming with accelerated urbanization
    • Natural resource managers and local planning officials need to understand the role each plays in protecting natural resources in the interface. In particular, natural resource managers need to better understand and influence public policies related to natural resources

 

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