Land Degradation

Land Degradation

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Initiatives to Combat Land Degradation and Promote Afforestation”. The topic “Initiatives to Combat Land Degradation and Promote Afforestation” has relevance in the Environment section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

About Land degradation?

For Mains:

GS 3: Environment

Government Initiatives for Afforestation and to combat Land Degradation?

Challenges of Land Degradation?

Challenges Associated with Afforestation?

Why in the news:

In a written response presented in the Lok Sabha, the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change highlighted significant measures adopted by India to address land degradation and encourage afforestation.

About Land degradation:

Land degradation refers to the deterioration of the quality and health of land resources, often resulting from various human activities and natural processes. It encompasses a range of negative changes that affect the soil, water, and vegetation on the land. Land degradation can have significant environmental, economic, and social consequences, including reduced agricultural productivity, increased vulnerability to natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, and diminished ecosystem services.

Land degradation can be organized into several categories based on the processes and causes involved:

Soil Erosion:

  • Water Erosion: Removal of soil particles by water, often due to raindrop impact and surface runoff.
  • Wind Erosion: Movement of soil particles by wind, leading to loss of topsoil and reduced soil fertility.


Desertification: The process by which fertile land becomes desert due to factors such as deforestation, overgrazing, and improper agricultural practices.

Salinization: Accumulation of salts in the soil, usually as a result of poor drainage, irrigation, and water management.

Waterlogging: Excessive accumulation of water in the soil, which can lead to decreased soil productivity and root damage.

Deforestation: Clearing of forests for agriculture, logging, urbanization, or other purposes, resulting in soil erosion, loss of habitat, and disruption of ecosystems.

Urbanization and Infrastructure Development: Expansion of urban areas and construction of infrastructure can lead to soil compaction, sealing of soil surfaces, and disruption of natural drainage systems.

Mining and Quarrying: Extraction of minerals and resources from the land can result in soil degradation, habitat destruction, and pollution of soil and water.

Improper Agricultural Practices: Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, monoculture farming, and excessive tilling can degrade soil quality and reduce its fertility.

Climate Change: Altered precipitation patterns and increased temperatures can exacerbate existing land degradation processes.


Nagar Van Yojana (NVY) Overview:

Introduced in 2020, the Nagar Van Yojana (NVY) is a visionary initiative aimed at establishing 1000 urban forests, known as Nagar Vans, in cities equipped with Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils, Municipalities, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). NVY’s ambitious objective is to create holistic and healthy living environments for city residents while also significantly contributing to cleaner, greener, and more sustainable urban centers.

Key Features of NVY:

  • Green Space Creation: NVY primarily focuses on creating green spaces within urban settings, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of these areas.
  • Biodiversity Awareness: The initiative has a goal of raising awareness about plants and biodiversity, promoting environmental stewardship, and fostering a sense of responsibility toward the environment.
  • In-Situ Conservation: NVY supports the in-situ conservation of vital flora native to each region, emphasizing the importance of preserving local plant species.
  • Environmental Improvement: By mitigating pollution, providing cleaner air, reducing noise levels, encouraging water harvesting, and countering the urban heat island effect, NVY contributes to significant environmental improvements in cities.
  • Health and Climate Resilience: Apart from enhancing the health and well-being of urban residents, NVY also plays a role in making cities more resilient to climate-related challenges.
  • Progress and Impact: Since its launch, NVY has shown impressive progress, with a total of 385 projects sanctioned across the country. This remarkable momentum underscores India’s commitment to transforming its cities into thriving, eco-conscious communities.


Government Initiatives for Afforestation and to combat Land Degradation:

  • National Forest Policy (NFP) 1988:
  1. The National Forest Policy (NFP) of 1988 sets a target at the national level to attain a minimum of one-third of the total land area covered by forests or trees.
  2. Its objectives include maintaining ecological balance, conserving natural heritage, and preventing soil erosion in critical areas.
  • National Mission for a Green India (GIM): GIM, part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), aims to increase forest and tree cover, restore degraded ecosystems, and enhance biodiversity.
  • Forest Fire Protection & Management Scheme (FFPM): This scheme focuses on preventing and managing forest fires, contributing to the overall health of forested regions.
  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund: The concept involves utilizing funds collected when forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes to undertake afforestation and reforestation projects, thereby restoring forest cover.
  • National Coastal Mission Programme: This initiative focuses on conserving and managing mangroves and coral reefs along India’s coastline.
  • State-Specific Initiatives: Mission Haritha Haram in Telangana and the Green Wall initiative in Haryana are examples of state-specific efforts to promote afforestation and combat land degradation.
  • Bonn Challenge Pledge: India’s commitment to restoring 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030 as part of the voluntary Bonn Challenge demonstrates the nation’s dedication to global land restoration and combating desertification efforts.


Challenges of Land Degradation:

Soil Erosion:

  • Soil fertility reduction due to intense rain and wind removing topsoil.
  • Erosion accelerated by improper agricultural practices and deforestation.
  • Altered weather patterns from climate change, such as excessive rainfall, exacerbating soil degradation by causing runoff.


  • Arid and semi-arid regions experiencing soil degradation and vegetation loss.
  • Overgrazing and unsustainable land practices intensify desertification.

Industrialization and Urbanization:

  • Urban expansion and industrial activities leading to soil sealing, hindering water infiltration and nutrient cycling.
  • Industrial pollution contaminating soil and water resources.

Land Pollution and Contamination:

  • Inadequate disposal of waste and hazardous materials causing soil contamination and reduced productivity.
  • Landfills and improper waste management contribute to land degradation.


Challenges Associated with Afforestation:

Species Selection:

  • Selecting tree species compatible with the local ecosystem.
  • Risk of invasive species outcompeting native vegetation.

Survival and Growth:

  • Ensuring successful establishment and growth of newly planted trees.
  • Factors like water availability, soil quality, and climate influencing tree adaptation.

Competing Land Uses:

  • Conflicts arising when afforestation competes with agriculture, urbanization, or other land uses.
  • Balancing conservation goals with economic activities presents challenges.

Ecosystem Imbalance:

  • Hasty afforestation without considering native species and ecosystems disrupts natural balances.
  • Monoculture planting leading to loss of biodiversity.

Community Participation:

  • Engaging local communities in afforestation efforts crucial for sustained success.
  • Insufficient community involvement may result in resistance or unsustainable practices.


Way Forward:

  • A holistic approach involving integrated landscape management, science-based species selection, bio-engineering solutions, and the incorporation of traditional ecological wisdom can lead to effective afforestation.
  • Encouraging eco-entrepreneurship, establishing sustainable financing mechanisms, implementing robust monitoring systems, prioritizing research and innovation, and fostering community engagement are critical steps toward achieving successful afforestation and combating land degradation.


Q1. With reference to CAMPA fund, consider the following statements: 

  1. The Supreme Court of India ordered the creation of the CAMPA fund in 2002 through the TN Godhavarman Vs Union of India case.
  2. Under the CAF Act, 100% of the funds collected are given to the states for afforestation activities.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A 

Q2. Consider the following statements regarding Nagar Van Scheme:

  1. Nagar Van scheme is aimed at establishing 200 Urban Forests across India within the next five years
  2. The Ministry of Urban Development has launched the ‘Nagar Van’ initiative.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Q3. Discuss the multifaceted challenges posed by land degradation and its implications for ecological, social, and economic well-being. Examine the strategies, policies, and international collaborations that can effectively address land degradation while promoting sustainable development.

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