The annual economic loss due to degraded land and change in land use in India was valued at Rs 3.17 lakh crore ($46.90 billion) in 2014-15–2.5% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014-15–according to a recent study commissioned by the ministry of environment and climate change.
The government needs to speed up reclamation as the cost of land degradation will outstrip the cost of reclamation in 2030, according to the 2018 study done by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), a Delhi-based think-tank.
The study divided the losses into two major categories: The cost of land degradation by land type, including agriculture, rangelands and forests; and the loss incurred when land is changed from a more to a less productive use.
Almost 82% of the estimated cost is on account of land degradation and 18% due to land use change, the study found.
India has a geographic area of 328.72 million hectare, of which land degradation is estimated to be 96.4 million hectare, or 29.32% of land area–as much as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra put together–according to the 2016 study by Space Applications Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
|Economical Losses From Land Degradation And Change Of Land Use, 2014-15|
|Category||Annual Economic Costs Of Degradation (Rs crore)||Loss (As % Of GDP)|
|Loss Due To Degradation Of Rangelands||12024.5||0.10|
|Loss Due To Forest Degradation||175857.4||1.41|
|Total Due To Land Degradation||260213.8||2.08|
|Loss Due To Land Use/Cover Change||57525.2||0.46|
|Total Cost Of Land Degradation And Land Use Change||317739||2.54|
Source: The Energy And Resource Institute Note: Costs are according to 2014-15 prices
The larger concern is the degradation of existing ecosystems, the study said.
“This is a serious concern, particularly given that India aims to be land degradation-neutral in 2030, where any increases in land degradation are balanced by equivalent gains in land reclamation,” the study added.
Water erosion largest cause of losses in agriculture sector
Losses in the agriculture sector caused by land degradation due to water erosion, wind erosion, salinity and loss of vegetation are pegged at Rs 72,000 crore ($10.68 billion)—more than the agriculture budget of Rs 58,000 crore ($8.54 billion) in 2018-19–according to the study.
Production losses due to erosion of soil through water are found to be the highest in the agriculture sector.
The estimated losses for the agricultural sector are conservative since losses for all crops (i.e. cash crops are not included in estimates of soil erosion), regions (i.e. water erosion has been estimated only for rain-fed agriculture), or degradation (i.e. losses due to waterlogging are not included) have not been calculated, the study said.
Land degradation cost to outstrip reclamation cost in 2030
The estimated annual cost of land degradation (Rs 3.17 lakh crore or $46.90 billion) will outstrip the cost of reclamation in 2030, according to the study.
The study looked at two scenarios using two different time-series to project the land reclamation cost in 2030.
In scenario 1, which considered degradation data for eight years (2003-11), reclamation was likely to cost around Rs 2.94 lakh crore ($43.37 billion) in 2030.
In scenario 2, which considered land-degradation data for 16 years (1995-2011), the reclamation cost was projected to be Rs 3.17 lakh crore ($46.70 billion), 1.5-times more than India’s current combined budgets for health, education and agriculture.
The projections of land area likely to be degraded in 2030 under the two scenarios are estimated at 94.53 million hectare and 106.15 million hectare, respectively.
(Tripathi is a principal correspondent with IndiaSpend.)