The real estate boom that was fuelled by India’s rapid economic growth in recent years has transformed thousands of hectares of arable land in the region into plots for glass-and-steel high-rises. Scientists describe such land as being degraded.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines land degradation as “the temporary or permanent lowering of the productive capacity of land”. In other words, it becomes increasingly difficult to grow crops on such land. And if it is not stopped, the process can lead to desertification.
The UN estimates that more than 3.2 billion people around the world are at risk from the effects of land degradation, many of whom live in the world’s poorest regions. And, according to an Indian government-backed study, land degradation led to a roughly 2.5 percent loss of the country’s economic output between 2014 and 2015.
This is a problem India can ill afford. Its economy is slowing, unemployment is near record highs and more than 40 percent of its workforce is engaged in agriculture. The government has promised to tackle land degradation, but critics say its proposed solutions do not go far enough.
The Centre for Science and Environment said that instead of asking for more private investments to restore lands, the global community should work towards giving greater land rights to the tribal communities who own these lands, and called upon the UN to work on a broader climate agenda by including them, who have suffered immensely from climate change.