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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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Report Claims, As Many As 1 Billion Indians Live in Areas of Water Scarcity

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater -- 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater -- 12 per cent of the global total.

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Global groundwater depletion - where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally - increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India's rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period. Pixabay

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of physical water scarcity, of which 600 million are in areas of high to extreme water stress, according to a new report.

Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid.

This number is expected to go up to five billion by 2050, said the report titled “Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019”, released to mark World Water Day on March 22.

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Pure water droplet. Pixabay

Physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by growing demand on water resources and and by climate and population changes.

By 2040 it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress – including 15 in the Middle East, most of Northern Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Spain. Many – including India, China, Southern Africa, USA and Australia – will face high water stress.

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Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid. Pixabay

Global groundwater depletion – where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally – increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period.

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The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater — 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 per cent of the global total.

The WaterAid report warned that food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries are making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply as high-income countries buy products with considerable “water footprints” – the amount of water used in production — from water-scarce countries. (IANS)