International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security
Land and Water Degradation –
Department of Geography, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India
In all the predominantly agricultural countries, no other environmental crisis affects our survival as that of water and soil degradation. Water and soils are our basis for existence and if the productive soils and water are lost, at the accelerated rate at which they are being degraded, the human survival may be at stake.
Soil degradation can be defined as the rate of adverse changes in soil quality resulting in the decline in productive capacity of land due to processes induced mainly by human intervention (UNEP, 1992). Oldeman (1998) defined it as a process, which lowers the current and /or future capacity of the soil to produce. There are various estimates of the extent of soil degradation. At global level soil and land degradation affects about one-fifth of the world’s population, 70 percent of all dry lands amounting to 3-6 billion hectares and one quarter of the total land area of the world. According to UNEP (1986) it is estimated that over the millennia as much as 2 billion hect. of land that were once biologically productive have been rendered unproductive through soil degradation. Further more, the current rate of soil degradation is estimated at 5 to 7 million hect per year. On the whole among all the resources available, soil is found as the most degraded and posing a serious threat for the survival of human beings. Since soil degradation is accepted as human induced phenomenon, in addition to its estimation of the extent, it is of interest to know, the reasons for degradation and the use at which these degraded lands are being put to.
In this paper an attempt has been made to asses the present land utilization patterns under cultivation and degradation level of the Indo-Gangetic divide area of India which is characterized as semi-arid. In this region the production process can not be started in a useful manner without the human interference. As it is observed that human activities leads to unfavorable changes in the physical, biological and hydrological resources and leads to the certain state of degradation in resource scarcity region in a much faster manner as compared to the tropical-sub tropical and temperate regions. The region under study is termed as semi-arid where without human interference it is impossible to start the crop-agriculture except of pasturing activities. With the introduction of irrigation system and Green Revolutionary measures the region is highly developed as compared to other regions of India but at the cost the high level of soil degradation as compared to other regions of India. The ‘soil fertility rating index’ of the region is better as compared to other regions of India but today without the chemical fertilizer supplement and plenty of water agricultural performance is not possible in the sustainable manner.
With the last 50 years doses of fertilizer has increased to the extent that input-output ratio is going to be equal and the farming community is in doldrums either to continue with such an agricultural practices or not. Since the region is very significant in maintaining the present food security of India, therefore, an alternative is needed and planning should be based on checking the water and land degradation on priority basis and a model should be developed for the adoption in most of the regions of the World.