The desert’s relentless march

India’s desert lands are expanding. Recent satellite maps show, between 2003 and 2006, an alarming 32 per cent of India’s lands to be degraded and nearly 25 per cent to be desertified.

Of course Rajasthan is the worst hit. The Thar Desert has become bigger, extending from an area of 196,000 square kilometer in 1996 to 208,000 square kilometers at present.

Land degradation and desertification puts at risk nearly 60 per cent of livelihoods of the country’s total of 400 million people that make a living out of agriculture and forestry.

Mining, deforestation, and unsustainable agricultural practices (read synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) are entirely to blame. They lead to degradation of vegetation, soil salinity, or alkalizing and logging of water.

Such land abuse has led to results that are visible. The Aravallis along the eastern margin of the Thar Desert are being denuded because of overexploitation of natural vegetation cover for fuel, wood, and fodder.

Natural processes such as water and wind erosion also play a part. About 9.5 million hectares of land has been degraded due to frost shattering. In this water enters cracks and rocks during the day and during the cold night it freezes. The pressure is exerted on the rock causing cracks to widen and shatter rocks into pieces. It’s pretty common in Uttarakhand, J&K, Arunachal, and Himachal.

(Pic source: internet)

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