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Nearly 30 percent of India’s land turning to desert and rate of degradation of agricultural areas increasing, says ISRO report

In states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa, more than 50 percent of the land is under desertification

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An increasing number of farmers in India are committing suicide due to debt pressure. To tackle the issue, the government has come up with farm loan waivers. (VOA)

More than a quarter of India’s land is turning to desert and the rate of degradation of agricultural areas is increasing, according to the new analysis of satellite images. A report from the Indian Space Research Organization says land degradation — broadly defined as loss of productivity — is estimated at 96 million hectares or nearly 30 percent of Indian land.

“As a country, we should be more than alarmed by this data,” said S. Janakarajan, chairman of the South Asia Consortium for Inter-disciplinary Water Resources Studies. “There is no coherent plan to reverse this process or its impact.”

Analysis of satellite mapping shows new areas in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir and eastern Indian states like Orissa and Jharkhand turning arid, with nine states together accounting for nearly 24 percent of desertification.

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In states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa, more than 50 percent of the land is under desertification.

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“Population pressure has resulted in over-exploitation of land for cultivation, grazing, water resources and deforestation leading to degradation of drylands,” Indian minister Jitendra Singh wrote in the report.

The ongoing study, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, was led by the Indian Space Research Organization and involved 19 other institutes.

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It analyzed satellite images over an eight-year period to compile the atlas.

“This is the first time we are looking at a digital atlas of degradation and it is pointing at newer areas undergoing desertification,” A.S. Rajawat of the Space Applications Center
told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is a ready reckoner to understand where we stand and the impact of land degradation on agricultural productivity.” (VOA)

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UNHRC Chief Michele Bachelet: India’s Lockdown Has Implementation Challenges

UN Human Rights chief criticises India's quarantine measures

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Michele Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people. IANS

BY ARUL LOUIS

While India is fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people.

She “expressed regret at the measures that have the effect of stigmatising sections of society, including migrants, such as the practice in some states of stamping hands of those quarantined in their homes, reportedly to ensure that they stay home, and sticking notices outside the homes of people quarantined,” the statement said.

She added, “It is important to weigh such measures against the right to privacy and avoid measures that would unduly stigmatise people within the community, who may already be vulnerable due to their social status or other factors.” She has been silent on other places which use electronic monitoring of those under quarantine. Bachelet also had strong criticism for the impact of the lockdown on migrant workers.

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“She was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown,” according to a statement released by her office in Geneva.

The statement said, “Without the ability to sustain themselves in urban centres and in light of the almost complete shutdown of public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant men, women and children were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres trying to reach their villages and home states. Some have died making the journey.”

Michele Bachelet
Michele Bachelet had strong criticism for the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on migrant workers. Pixabay

“Supreme Court of India’s subsequent instruction on March 31 to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies as well as psychosocial counselling in shelters that should be run by volunteers instead of security forces, and that they should be treated in a humane manner,” the statement said.

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It quoted her as saying, “The Supreme Court’s order and its implementation will go a long way to ensuring the safety and rights of these vulnerable migrants. Many of these people’s lives have been suddenly uprooted by the lockdown, placing them in very precarious situations.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric highlighted Bachelet’s statement at his daily briefing on Thursday.

Also Read- Here’s a Healthy Diet for Your Liver

Bachelet, however, acknowledged, that

“the lockdown in India represents a massive logistical and implementation challenge given the population size and its density and we all hope the spread of the virus can be checked.”

She added, “It is nonetheless important to ensure that measures in response to Covid-19 are neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.” (IANS)