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According to the ‘State of India’s Environment (SoE) 2019 in Figures’, released on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, India has witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in 26 of its 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13.


  • Every year, World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on June 17. The day is a unique occasion to remind the global community that desertification can be effectively tackled, that solutions are possible, and that key tools to this solution lay in strengthened community participation and cooperation at all levels across the world.
  • This year’s theme is ‘Let’s Grow the Future Together’ (Reflecting on 25 years of progress and envisaging to the next 25) encouraging people against depleting the land of its inbuilt resources.


  • In India, 21 of the 78 drought-prone districts that were identified by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), have more than half of their areas under desertification.
  • Of these nine have also witnessed over 2 percent increase in the area under desertification between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
  • More than 80 percent of the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states:
    • Rajasthan
    • Maharashtra
    • Gujarat
    • Jammu and Kashmir
    • Karnataka
    • Jharkhand
    • Odisha
    • Madhya Pradesh
    • Telangana
  • India was the signatory to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on June 17, 1994.
  • While India had committed to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, it witnessed an increase of 1.87 million hectares undergoing the process of desertification between 2003-05 and 2011-13.


  • The highest increase in land degradation is observed in Lunglei district of Mizoram (5.81 percent increase from 2003-05 to 2011-13). Other districts with more than two percent increase in land degradation are Aizawl (Mizoram), South Tripura (Tripura), Kathua (Jammu Kashmir), Bhiwani (Haryana), Kokrajhar (Assam), Hailakandi (Assam) and Tirap (Arunachal Pradesh).
  • Top three districts with the highest area under desertification or land degradation are:
    • Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (92.96 percent during 2011-13 and 98.13 percent during 2003-05)
    • Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh (80.54 percent during 2011-13 and 80.57 percent during 2003-05)
    • Kargil, Jammu, and Kashmir (78.23 percent during 2011-13 and 78.22 percent during 2003-05).
  • Districts with more than 50 percent area under desertification are: Shyok sub-basin (Jammu and Kashmir), Giridih (Jharkhand), Kinnaur (Himachal Pradesh), Bokaro (Jharkhand), Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), Dhule (Maharashtra), Kohima (Nagaland), Bargarh (Odisha), Purulia (West Bengal), Ahmadnagar (Maharashtra), Koraput (Odisha), West Khasi Hills (Meghalaya), Kendujhar (Odisha), Aizawl (Mizoram), Panch Mahals (Gujarat), Surendranagar (Gujarat), Theni (Tamil Nadu) and North Goa (Goa).
  • Despite this, the fund utilization for implementing drinking water schemes show the desert development program (DDP) has been low on priority for the government.


  • Desertification is defined by the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification as the land degradation in arid, semiarid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.
  • Land degradation is in turn defined as the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity of drylands
  • The main reasons that cause desertification in India are:
    • Water erosion (10.98 percent)
    • Wind erosion (5.55 percent)
    • Human-made/settlements (0.69 percent)
    • Vegetation degradation (8.91 percent)
    • Salinity (1.12 percent)
    • Others (2.07 percent)


  • A Threat to Agriculture: Increasing desertification of India’s soil is a fundamental threat to agriculture. Once an area becomes a desert, then it’s almost impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies.
  • Hunger: Without fields and agriculture, the food will become much scarcer, and the people will be a lot more likely to try and deal with hunger problems.
  • Concern for Drylands:It is another major environmental concern and a major barrier to meeting human basic needs in drylands, which are being constantly threatened by increases in human pressures and climatic variability.
  • Flooding:Without the plant life in the region, flooding is a lot more imminent.
  • Poor Water Quality:In deserts, the water quality becomes a lot worse because the plants play a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear and without its presence, it becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to do that.


  • There are various schemes have been launched by the Government of India which is helping to reduce land degradation such as:
    • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
    • Soil Health Card Scheme
    • Soil Health Management Scheme
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PKSY)
    • Per Drop More Crop
  • In addition to above initiative, the government also launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India, through a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, and Karnataka.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), through this flagship project, aims to develop and adopt best practices and monitoring protocols for the Indian states and build capacity within the five pilot states on FLR and Bonn Challenge.
  • India has high stakes and stands strongly committed to the Convention.


Bonn Challenge:

  • The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
  • At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.
  • India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.

United Nations Conventions to Combat Desertification:

  • United Nations has 3 Rio Conventions namely:
    • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
    • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • The UNCCD was established in 1994, it is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda.
  • In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared 17 June the “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought” to promote public awareness and the implementation of the UNCCD in the desertification affected countries.


Today, one-third of the world’s land surface is threatened by desertification and across the world, it affects the livelihood of millions of people who depend on the benefits of ecosystems that drylands provide. Desertification is a huge problem that needs to be addressed accordingly to prevent other problems from happening with it in the future. By taking that critical look at desertification, we have the tools that we need in order to get through the processes effectively.

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