Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        


  • Desertification is the process through which vegetation in drylands, also known as arid and semi-arid lands, such as grasslands or shrublands, declines and finally vanishes.
  • The idea refers to different mechanisms that pose a danger to convert currently non-desert ecosystems into deserts, rather than the actual physical growth of existing deserts.


  • Overgrazing: The ecosystem suffers and loses its former lush splendour if there are too many animals overgrazing in certain areas since it is difficult for the plants to recover.
  • Deforestation: Deforestation is a major cause of desertification, as forests are cut down for fuel, daily products, or agriculture. This leads to the loss of roots, soil support, and canopy protection, causing bare soil to dry out and turn to dust, which can be easily washed away in a single storm.
  • Climate Change: Since there are various factors that might contribute to land degradation, climate change is frequently what accelerates the process of desertification in an increasing number of locations.
  • Poverty and Political Instability: These issues can both be the result of and contribute to desertification. This is because individuals living in countries who are on the verge of hunger, are extremely poor, or are experiencing political unrest must immediately address their problem and do not have time to consider sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Unfortunately, poor land use practices such as illegally felling trees, cultivating unsustainable crops, and grazing livestock on rapidly eroding land are frequent results of their compromised livelihoods. These practices only worsen the already precarious situation of the soil and put people's lives in danger.
  • Indiscriminate of use of fertilizers: Excessive fertilizers and pesticide use can cause soil damage, causing arable land to become arid over time. Over time, this damage renders the land unsuitable for farming, making it difficult to maintain agricultural productivity.
  • Poor farming practices: Farmers often struggle with land usage, stripping it of nutrients and causing desertification, leading to land loss and increased desertification in the farming area.

Poverty and Political Instability

Impact of desertification

  • Increased vulnerability to natural disaster: Desertification worsens natural disasters by reducing ecosystem resilience and increasing vulnerability to climate change. Degraded soils increase vulnerability to flash floods, landslides, and dust storms, causing rapid floods and rapid runoff.
  • Rise of famine, poverty and social conflict: Desertification is a severe land degradation that destroys natural ecosystems, causing the loss of essential services like water filtration, climate regulation, nutrient recycling, carbon sequestration, and soil regeneration.
  • These services are crucial for our wellbeing and can lead to famine, water scarcity, resource conflicts, and animal deaths. Insecurity in many African countries, particularly in the Sahel area, worsens due to climate change, resource management issues, and weak political structures. This leads to hunger and conflicts.
  • Species extinction: Long-lasting droughts, floods, and temperature fluctuations can deplete a species' food supply, leading to famine. In desertified areas, species that once thrived in rich environments may struggle to survive. As the environment changes, organisms must either adapt to their new climate or migrate to a more hospitable one, or they risk going extinct.
  • Migration: Desertification leads to the destruction of farmers' livelihoods. The problem will be exacerbated when water scarcity due to global warming renders large areas currently used for agriculture unsuitable for agriculture. This leads to serious migration movements. 

Status of desertification in India

  • According to the Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India, land degradation in India climbed to 84 million hectares in 2018–19 from 96.32 million hectares in 2011–2013.
  • A total of 45 million hectares of degraded land were detected in three states alone, out of the 97.84 million hectares of desertified land.
  • Rajasthan has 21.23 million hectares of desertified land, 14.3 million hectares in Maharashtra, and 1.02 million hectares in Gujarat. 

Steps taken by India

  • Through public engagement, the National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) is executing the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) for the ecological restoration of degraded forests and surrounding regions.
  • By engaging in plantation work in both forested and non-forested regions, the National Mission for Green India (GIM) seeks to safeguard, restore, and enhance India's forest cover.
  • Projects under the National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS) are used to carry out demand-driven, action-oriented research activity. A few initiatives involve the creation of models for watershed management, soil protection, and land reclamation, among other things.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna's Watershed Development Component implements the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP), whose goal is to develop rainfed and degraded areas. 

Global Initiatives

  • Bonn Challenge: The Bonn Challenge is an international initiative to restore 350 million hectares of damaged and deforested land by 2030, and 150 million hectares by 2020.
  • N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which was established in 1994, is the only international treaty that is enforceable internationally and links land policy to environmental and development concerns.
  • Great Green Wall Initiative: The African Union launched the game-changing Great Green Wall programme in 2007 with the goal of restoring the continent's devastated landscapes and improving the lives of millions of people in the Sahel region.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 15: Protect, repair, and encourage the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Manage forests sustainably. Fight desertification. Halt and reverse land deterioration. 

Way forward

  • The best opportunity the world has to stabilize the impacts of climate change, conserve animal species, and safeguard human well-being is to stop desertification. Everybody and every government should take responsibility for protecting the forest since it is our shared obligation. 
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