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Land
Land is the most prized asset in U.P. of the total area of 2.42 crore ha the net cultivated area is 1.68 cr. Ha but 28.5 lakh ha of it is subject to serious soil erosion. In addition, there are degraded lands (38 lakh ha) that are sodic, ravinous, water-logged or flood prone. A two-pronged strategy is called for. Firstly, productive land must be saved from degradation. Secondly, a full-blooded drive must be launched to recover already degraded land for production. Progress in recovering degraded lands has been slow.

Land is one of the most critical factors for the presence of life and its sustenance on this planet. As a resource it is limited and inelastic. We know that. Yet, it is also true that the increasing human demand for it, and consequently, the natural resources of diverse types found on it, are giving rise to a myriad environmental, economical and social problems, creating in the process, inequalities, tensions, poverty and corroding competition. World over, the impacts of land scarcity in both quantitative and qualitative terms are experience actuely barring a few countries which are more fortunately placed in this context. Though nearly one-fourth of the earth’s land is covered soil only about a little over one tenth is naturally suited for agriculture. Per capita availability of arable land is falling all over.

The problem of land management, globally, has now become the problem of saving the earth. The fact is that we are over-drawing from a finite account. According to experts. “the amount of crops, animals and other biomatter that we extract from the earth each year exceeds what the planet can replace by an ;estimated 20%, meaning it takes 14.4 months to replensh what we use in twelve, deficit spending of the worst kind”

Land is an essential pre-requisite both for primary production system as well as for meeting social priorities and therefore, must be available in adequate extent and desired quality. Similarly, Water is also a critical input and its availability should be assured. Per capita availability of these two resources is declining due to various reasons. Successful development planning for future will now depend on scientific land use planning with specific consideration to maintaining and improving the interrelationship between land and water cycles. In developing countries like India, problems of soil erosion and land degradation are intimately associated with land husbandry as well as growth promoting developmental activities. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure generation of sustainable livelihood in terms of food and income through proper maintenance and enhancement of the productivity of the resource base on a long-term basis.

The concern of development planning is not only to manage land surface and soil profile for better nutrient supply to the plants and more beneficial distribution of limited water source but also to ensure Sustainable Livelihood Security (SLS). Livelihood is defined as adequate stock and flows of food and income to meet the basic needs while the term ‘sustainable’ refers to maintenance or enhancement of productivity of the resources based on long-term basis. Therefore, secured resources and adequate livelihood are pre-requisites for good husbandry and sustainable management of the natural resources base of land, water and vegetation.

Trends & Status in U.P.
Land use figures show (I) forests constitute only 7% of the reporting area and dense cover is only 3.75%: (ii) during the last decade percentages of usar and other land unfit for cultiviation, cultural waste lands and other fallows have shown a downward treand (iii) area percentage of land under non-agriculture uses has increased. Area under fallow lands is still quite substantial. Nearly 75 lakh ha of land are degraded that need to be restored.

There is not much scope for any substantial increase in net sown area. What needs to be done is to improve croppinmg intensity in the available arable land, recovery of degraded lands and protecting productive lands. Scientific agriuclture, forestry and grassland developpment will have to be intensified. Land and water conservaion in intergrated modes demands high priority.

Changing agricultural land use:

In UP, there is an increasing trend towards standardization of food grains (rice and wheat) and increased production of high value agricultural crops, at the expense of more traditional crops. While area under crops such as rice, wheat and sugarcane has increased, area under some other crops such as barley, jowar, and maize has decreased. This trend is more or less consistent with the over all trend at all India level.

Land Degradation

Productive lands are essential to meet growing food, fuel and fodder needs. They also help conserve water resources and shelter biodiversity. Demand for land by a growing population, the conversion of public forest and revenue lands to agriculture, industrial and urban development, unwise use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and encroachments have led to the rapid deterioration of land resources.

Status of Land Degradation
In undivided UP around 9.5 percent of the land area was classified as degraded land. About 13.52 million hectares of land is affected by degradation, including8.835 million hectares of land affected by soil erosion. Most of the degraded land was classified as arable land (77.4%), but in fact may not have been productive anymore. Saline/alkaline soils (25%) are the predominant wasteland type in current UP followed by land with scrubs (23%), and water logged/marshy land (22%). Total water logged area is estimated at 0.81 million hectares which is a major concern in UP especially in the eastern and central regions.

Issues regarding degraded land classification
The classification of degraded land is not consistent across the two main agencies that record land degradation information. While on one hand the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Government of UP (from the point of view of agriculture) has identified both cropped and non-cropped areas for delineating the degraded lands, on the other hand Department of Land Resources (DOLR), Government of India has classified it on the basis of remote sensing data. As a result some categories such as rocky areas do not get mentioned in estimates of DOA and the others like arable lands affected by soil erosion do not find place in DOLR’s figures.

District wise extent of land degradation
Based on degraded land as percent of geographical area of a district (>9%, 6 to 9%,3 to 6% 3%), a land degradation map of UP is prepared . Districts such as Sonbadhra, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Chitrakoot, Rae Bareily, Kanpur Nagar, Kanpur Dehat, Kannauj, Mainpuri, lalithpur, Jhansi and Etah have greater than 9 percent of degraded land.

Causes for Land Degradation
Inefficient and excessive irrigation:

Inefficient and excessive irrigation in areas with poor soil permeability and drainage causes water logging and Stalinization of the soil, adversely affecting crop yields. This problem manifests itself very adversely in the canal-irrigated regions of UP. Land use and cropping pattern changes also lead to land degradation of varying magnitudes.

Industrialization and urbanization:

Industrialization and urbanization exert pressure on available land and result in land use pattern changes. Though, land conversion from agriculture and forests to commercial uses is inevitable in a growing economy, appropriate land use planning is essential to safeguard agriculture and ecological sustainability.

Lack of forest cover:

Over 50 districts in UP have forest cover less than 5 percent of districts land area. Poor forest and vegetative cover exposes the lands to wind and water erosion.

Losses In Agricultural Productivity:

There is growing evidence to show that long-term agricultural yield growth is declining, particularly in Western UP. Between 1990 and 1995, rice yields grew at 1 percent, compared to 5percent between 1980 and 1990; wheat yields grew at 1.6 percent compared to 2.4percent over the earlier period.(http://www.worldbank.org/html/extpb/annrep99/box2-9.htm).

During 1951-81, the area cultivated in kharif in the Gandak River Project command fell from 214,000 ha to68,000 ha due to annual floods, salinity and water logging. Over one third of the sodic (usar) lands in UP are largely an outcome of the rapidly rising watertable that leads to water logging conditions in extensive areas of the state. Indiscriminate use of pesticides affects food quality. It has been found that about 20 percent of Indian food products contain pesticide residues above tolerance levels compared to about 2 percent globally. Only 49 percent of Indian food products are found to contain no detectable pesticide residues as against80 percent globally (TERI, 2000).

Cost of Land Reclamation:

The cost of land reclamation can be measured in many ways, viz. in terms of value of yield loss, as the value of increased farm inputs needed to maintain yields, or as the cost of rehabilitating the degraded land to its former condition, including there placement of lost nutrients (Sara J. Scherr & Satya Yadav, 1996). A recent World Bank assisted UP Sodic Lands Reclamation Project (UPSLRP) spent about US$194.1 million to reclaim 150,000 hectares of sodic land in UP. It is further estimated that an equivalent of UA$ 15.528 billion is required to rehabilitate the entire sodic lands in the state (World Bank, 1998). During 1997-2000 UP has successfully reclaimed more than 10 percent of the total sodic lands with external assistance.