By 2050, the proportion of the global population living in cities is estimated to increase by roughly 2.5 billion people. According to the soon-to-be-released Global Land Outlook study, such growth frequently leads to urban sprawl, with built-in land spilling over onto fertile soils and farms in certain cases, resulting in a permanent loss of arable land.
Speaking in terms of India, According to the Census Department, the area under urban use increased by 24,000 sq km over the same time period. A large portion of this would have come at the price of rural land. One reason why the scale of this change may be underestimated is that fertile lands are being replaced by less fertile lands.
Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, NRSC data reveals a decrease in shrublands, grasslands, grazing lands, swamps, and wastelands, all of which are poorer alternatives to fertile land if co-opted into farming. Between 2014 and 2015, land degradation resulted in a 2.5 percent drop in the country’s economic production, owing to the loss of vast swaths of valuable land.
This is a problem that India cannot afford to have. The economy is weakening, unemployment is reaching record highs, and agriculture employs more than 40% of its people. The government has pledged to combat land degradation, but critics argue that its proposed measures are insufficient. The concern seems serious as some sharp hitting words echoed at global levels.
“Whenever you cause stress on land, millions of people are affected by the shockwave. And you can see that there is a strong link here. Years of drought, for example, are followed by years of an economic slump. And it’s a sudden downturn,” Thiaw of the UNCCD added. “India’s burgeoning middle class will require more resources in the future, putting additional pressure on land to produce energy, water, and fiber. India should begin recovering its land as soon as possible, or else its economy will suffer in the long run,” he warned.
Agricultural land loss is more common in the vicinity of smaller cities than in the vicinity of larger ones. Between 2001 and 2010, each state lost less than 1% of its overall geographical area due to urban expansion, with the northeastern states losing the least amount of agricultural land.
Agricultural land loss is primarily concentrated in states and districts with the most active or approved SEZs. Agricultural land conversion to urban uses is concentrated in a few districts and states with high economic growth rates. Agricultural land loss is disproportionately concentrated in states with higher agricultural land suitability than other states.
Despite the fact that the total area of agricultural land lost to urban expansion has been relatively small, the amount of agricultural land converted has been continuously increasing since 2006. Given that the majority of India’s urban population growth has yet to occur, the findings point to an increase in agricultural land conversion in the future.
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