Desertification - A Brief Overview

This article shares details on the meaning of desertification, the 7 different causes behind desertification, and the negative and harmful effects of desertification like increase in poverty, hunger, fall in farm outputs etc.

Desertification is a topic in the Geography section of the UPSC syllabus. Aspirants would find this article very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

Aspirants should begin their preparation by solving UPSC Previous Year Question Papers now!!

To complement your preparation for the upcoming exam, check the following links:

Desertification – Degradation of Fertile Land

Desertification is the degradation process by which a fertile land changes itself into a desert by losing its flora and fauna, this can be caused by drought, deforestation, climate change, human activities or improper agriculture. Desertification is a process of degradation of the land. It occurs because of man-made activities and climate change. Desertification takes place when a particular type of biome converts into a desert biome. 

Desertification Causes

  1. Overgrazing
  2. Deforestation
  3. Farming Practices
  4. Urbanization and other types of land development
  5. Climate Change
  6. Stripping the land of resources
  7. Natural Disasters

Desertification Impacts

  1. Farming becomes difficult or even impossible in the area
  2. Flooding chances are more
  3. Hunger – because of no farming
  4. Poor quality of water
  5. Overpopulation
  6. Poverty as a result of the above

Steps To Reduce Desertification

Given below are the steps which may help in reducing Desertification:

  • Focus on Water management. Rainwater harvest must be done, water that can be reused must not be left out as waste
  • Reforestation and tree regeneration
  • Buttressing the soil through the use of sand fences, shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks
  • Better and hyper-fertilization of soil through planting
  • The residue from pruned trees can be used to provide mulching for fields thus increasing soil water retention and reducing evaporation

UPSC Aspirants can refer to the links below for exam preparation:

National Water Mission Water Scarcity – Causes, Types, Effects & Prevention
National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) National Water Mission – Jal Jeevan Mission
United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) Ministry of Jal Shakti – Significance of Jal Shakti Ministry, Jal Shakti Abhiyan

Desertification in India

  • Population growth, removal of wood, overgrazing, soil erosions, etc. are all the important factors that have caused desertification in India
  • According to the Government’s data recently presented to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), India lost 31%, or 5.65 million hectares, of grassland area in a decade
  • As per reports, over 105 million hectares or about 32% of India’s areas has degraded
  • Between 2003-2005 and 2011-2013, 26 states witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in India

Measures Taken To Curb Desertification in India

Multiple steps and measures have been taken by the concerned authorities regarding curbing desertification in India. Discussed below are the same:

  • A Command Area Development Programme was launched in 1974 which is coordinated by the Ministry of Water Resources for its implementation in various states of the country. It aims at improvising the irrigational potential through water management
  • In 1989-90, Integrated Watershed Management Programme was launched, which was later renamed as Haryali Guidelines in 2013, and then, subsumed under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
  • Implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development, the Desert Development Programme was launched in 1995 to minimize the effects of drought in areas across the country
  • India also became a signatory to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1994
  • National Afforestation Programme was implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the year 2000
  • In 2001, the National Action Programme to Combat Desertification was implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
  • Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India was released by ISRO in 2016to combat desertification and land degradation

Measures Taken To Curb Desertification Globally

Desertification is an issue for people across the globe and multiple steps have been taken to curb it. Given below are the steps which have been taken globally to curb  desertification:

  • Goal 15 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 2030 declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production.”
  • The Bonn Challenge has been taken up as per which 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land is expected to be restored by 2020 and around  350 million hectares to be restored by 2030
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was established in 1994
  • Apart from this, every year, June 17 is observed as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Desertification – Latest News

  1. Recently, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought was observed on June 17th. The theme for 2019 is ‘Let’s Grow the Future Together’ to encourage people against depleting the land of its inbuilt resources
  2. For years, commentators have questioned the popularity of sugarcane in arid, drought-prone Marathwada. When farmers reluctantly shifted to tur in 2016, the state government had the opportunity to promote better crop planning, as per water experts. But things didn’t pan out on expected lines. If things continue unchanged, water-stressed regions such as Marathwada could be heading towards desertification, as per opinions shared by experts.
  3. According to statistics, China has 2.61 million square kilometers of desert, meaning more than a quarter of the country’s land is either degraded or lost to sand. However, thanks to decades-long efforts to combat desertification, China has achieved substantial progress in sand control and ecological protection.

Consider the following Statements

  1. Desertification makes a land fertile.
  2. Desertification is always a natural process.

Which of the Following Statements are Correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

Answer: d

Also see:

Loss of Biodiversity Climate Change
Causes of the Loss of Biodiversity Biological Weathering

Relevant Links

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 3 Syllabus, Strategy & Structure Environment and Ecology Notes For UPSC Civil Service Exam
Previous Years Environment Questions in UPSC Mains General Studies Paper- 3 Topic-Wise General Studies Paper-3 Questions in UPSC Mains

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2023.

Candidates preparing for the Civil Service exam can refer to the below-given links, for more information related to climate change, environment and ecology, water scarcity, and various Government of India schemes to tackle the problem of Climate change.

Relevant Links

Drinking Water: Quality & Challenges: Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) – The Big Picture Green Revolution – Meaning, Features, Schemes & Impact
United Nations Development Program and India United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Climate Change In India No-Till Farming – Method of Agriculture that has many Environmental Positives
Sustainable Development Goals – SDG in India, Progress, Aims & Impact National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE)
Green India Mission (GIM) National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)
Drinking Water: Quality & Challenges: Rajya Sabha TV (RSTV) – The Big Picture Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunals in India



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