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Parts Of India Experiencing Desertification

November 26, 2009

Deforestation and overgrazing are among the factors being blamed for turning almost a quarter of India into desert, according to a study published this week.

The study’s authors report that northern and western India are the hardest hit, as shown by satellite mapping.

The study, published by the Space Applications Center and the Current Science journal states, “There has been a long-pending need for desertification/land degradation status mapping of the entire country based on scientific methods.”

Researchers added that over 200 million acres (80 million hectares) were under desertification – areas already considered desert or under threat.

India accounts for 2.4 percent of the world’s land mass, yet it supports roughly 16.7 percent of global population, as well as 18 percent of its cattle.

“There is tremendous pressure on our land-based natural resources,” it said.

Other causes taken into account were “changes in the frequency and amount of rainfall, water and wind erosion, as well as harmful agricultural practices.”

A total of 32 percent of India was described by the study as undergoing “land degradation.” The states where this is most pronounced are Rajasthan, Kashmir, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Other research, conducted by consulting firm McKinsey and Co., shows that water needs throughout India would double by the year 2030.

India’s large agricultural sector, driven by demand for rice and other crops, is expected to consume some 53 trillion cubic feet (1.5 trillion cubic meters) of water by 2030. This figure, according to the McKinsey study, is almost double that of China.

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