India is a predominantly agricultural country. A large number of our industries also depend on agriculture. A survey of the present status of land in India has shown that most of our croplands, woodlands and grasslands have already become deteriorated owing to faulty agricultural practices. Soil erosion, deforestation, water logging, salination and urban encroachment have considerably affected our productive lands.
Out of India’s total land mass of 305 million hectares (ha) nearly half is considered as waste land. Around 18 million he are under urban and productive use. Another 21 million ha are rocky or snow-bound. Of the remaining 266 million are culturable waste, 23 million hectares are fallows, 83 million ha are classified as forests and pasture land and 143 million hectares are agricultural land.
The man-land ratio is very low in India. Due to high population pressure the per capita available land in our country is only 0.48 hectare. We must learn to survive with this serious limitation. This requires understanding, planning and integrated management of land and water.
The Himalaya is one of the most crucial watersheds in the world with very high sedimentation rate. Execution of environmentally unsound
developmental plans and defective land use in the mountains have created
grave problems in the plains of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Every year over 400 million people are ravaged by recurring floods and their consequences. With increasing misuse of the Himalayan slopes, damage to reservoirs and irrigation system is accelerating.
The treatment of catchments should be done on an environmentally sound basis. It must begin from the top-most reaches of the catchment. The land to be conserved should be planted with economically and socially useful trees and grasses, chosen according to edaphic and climatic conditions and local needs.
The productivity to canal irrigated lands in India is still very poor in comparison with that in other countries because of water — logging and salinity. Proper drainage and desalination practices can overcome these problems.
One untapped source of water in India is the ground water. There are several advantages in using ground water, These are:
(i) It can be tapped in a very short time.
(ii) The cost of tube-wells is low.
(lii) It is easier to raise the interest Of the farmers.
(iv) Irrigation is highly economical because it does not involve storage and transport.
(v) It is not vulnerable to evaporation and seepage losses.
(vi) The ground water is especially suitable in canal command areas because it helps in lowering the water tables and
(vii) A large amount of ground water is available even in dçsert areas.
A scientific investigation of the ground water potential together with the replenishment rates should be undertaken.
To meet the needs of the increasing population, the demand on land for agriculture, industry and settlement is increasing. On the other hand good land is shrinking due to degradation. As explained above, a large part of our country’s land is considered as wasteland. Wastelands can be broadly classified into two types : culturable wastelands (ravenous and gullied lands. Surface water-logged land and march, saline lands and lands with lateritic soils, shifting cultivation areas, degraded, forest lands, strip lands, mining and industrial wastelands, etc.) and unculturable wastelands (barren rocky areas, steep slopes, snow-capped mountains and glaciers). Development and reclamation of culturable wastelands can increase the availability of land for productivity.
Reclaimation of wasteland involves high expenditure, expertise and manpower. But wasteland that is reclaimable within the financial means and known techniques should be immediately undertaken. There are over 87 million hectare (ha) of agricultural land prone to degradation by severe erosion. This land must be saved on a priority basis measures that will minimize soil erosion. Some of these practices are creation of shelter belts, revegetation of steep slopes etc.