According to various definitions of wastelands proposed by authors and National wasteland Development board it is estimated the wastelands in India vary from as low as 53 mha to 175 mha. It is found out that over cultivation, uncontrolled grazing and irrational irrigation are the major factors of land degradation. With the help of National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and Survey of India the various types of wastelands have been classified. After understanding the necessity of wasteland reclamation Govt. of India enunciated the land use policy in 1983. Since then National Land Resources Conservation and Development Commission (NLRCDC), the National Land Board (NLB), National Land Use and Wastelands Development council (NLWC), The National wasteland Development Board (NWDB) etc. and many wasteland development schemes has been launched. At present IWDP (Integrated wasteland development Project) is under implementation. The focus and objective are high and it has been successful in region like Sivganga district of Tamilnadu. Though many schemes implemented the wasteland development action programme so far proved ineffective in dealing with the problem. Lessons learnt from review suggest that current strategy need to be modified .It should include diversification of the programme into multidisciplinary effort based on integrated planning done in consultation with local community. The management system of programme would need a greater element of public participation so that its outcome is beneficial to the people and the programme eventually develops into a people’s movement.
For the policy makers, agriculture scientists and the people who follow development sector the term wasteland is not a new term at all. What precisely are wastelands? Bhumbla & Khare (1984) have defined them as “those lands (a) which are eco logically unstable , (b) Whose top soil has been nearly completely lost, and (c) which have developed toxicity in root zones for growth of most plants, both annual crop and trees.” The National Wasteland Development Board (NWDB) has defined wasteland as “degraded land which can be brought under vegetative cover with reasonable effort and which is currently under utilized and land which is deteriorating for lack of appropriate water and soil management or on account of natural causes”. In a sense the two definition of wasteland complement each other and describe most of its features.
CAUSES OF LAND DEGRADATION:
Just we have studied that wasteland is degraded land .The four main reasons of land degradation are (a) over cultivation (b) deforestation (c) overgrazing and (d) improper irrigation. Let us discuss in some details.
Over cultivation- The proportion of landless and marginal farmers in India is high. Because of scarcity of land, farming of ecologically vulnerable areas is taken up resulting in erosion and associated land degradation problems.
Deforestation – Tree are among the most effective preservers of land; however, at present, trees are being cut for various reasons. Let us briefly discuss those.
Fuel wood: Deforestation for fire wood is estimated at around 5000 hectares annually; the actual figure in fact, could be much higher. In most part of the country there is no cheaper alternative of fire wood. Relative costs of fire wood and its substitute have not been worked out for all the regions, for the simple reason that fire wood is free, just collected from the forests, orchards, canal side plantations or trees along roads and railways. According to planning commission if all the current and projected planting plans are implemented it can only produce about 49 million ton against the requirement of 133 million tons.
Shifting cultivation: It is a traditional practice locally known as jhum in north eastern region, podu in Orissa and dhya in MP. Due to increase in population and land shortages have resulted in a shortening of the forest fallow period. The jhum cycle, which was 30 to 40 years a few decades back, varies at present between 1 to 17 years. The result is poor crop yields necessitating the shifting cultivators to go in for fresh clearing of forests causing extensive land degradation.
Commercial timber exploitation:Timber exploitation to meet the ever increasing need of industries and urban areas has been a major cause of extensive deforestation. It is the commercial demand not the local people who cause large scale forest destruction.
Clearing for permanent non forestry purpose: Activities such as cultivation, human settlement, setting up of industries etc. often bares the soil to ravages of rain and wind, with all the subsequent dangers of flooding, silting and drought when rainfall is markedly seasonal, especially if inappropriate methods of farming are used on erosion sensitive soils.
c) Over grazing- Over grazing is as destructive as deforestation but its effects are not immediately noticeable. According to an FAO estimate, one buffalo eats seven tones of leaves (by fresh weight) per year, and a cow two and a half tones –all these leafy material coming from forests adjoining the villages. Thus uncontrolled grazing has contributed to destruction of forests and grasslands thereby exposing the soil to wind and water erosion and consequent land degradation.
d) Improper Irrigation- The farmer is totally oblivious of the cost that improper irrigation, viz, over use of water and non provision of adequate drainage, imposes on others. In most cases , especially in large plains, the water table, and capillary arising from the higher ground water level increases accumulation of salts both in ground water and the soil near the surface thus subsequently lowering soil productivity, and in extreme cases, making it unfit for crop production.
TYPES OF WASTELANDS:
The National wasteland development Board (NWDB) of the ministry of Environment and forests, in addition to requesting the state governments to conduct detailed surveys and document all categories of land suffering from physical and other deficiencies or under sub optimal use, prepared maps of wastelands in respect of 146 districts in 19 states with the help of National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and Survey of India. Wastelands in the following 13 categories were identified and mapped:
1. Gullies and/or ravines 2. Upland with or without scrub 3. Waterlogged and marshy land 4. Land affected by salinity /alkalinity in coastal and inland areas 5. Land under shifting cultivation 6. Under utilized / degraded notified forest land 7. Degraded pasture / grazing land 8. Degraded land under plantation crops 9. Shifting sands- inland /coastal 10. Mining / industrial wastelands 11. Barren rocky / stony waste/ sheet rock areas 12. Steep sloping area 13. Snow covered and/ or glacial area.
The maps show specific types of wastelands with their extent and location in a village and thus provide a database for area based project planning for wasteland development. Public lands can be divided into 2 sub categories. Some are owned by a Department or agency of the GOVT. e.g. Railways, Canals, Public works, Education etc. The second category is the common property resources (CPR) such as village common land, gram sabha land, gochur lands etc.
STRUCTURES AND POLICIES:
The GOVT. of India in the early 1970s urged the states to set up state land use board (SLUB) under the chairmanship of the chief minister for providing policy directions and for coordinating activities of the Department concerned with soil and land resources. In 1983, a two tier body, viz. National Land Resources Conservation and Development Commission (NLRCDC) and the National Land Board (NLB) were set up. In 1983 NLB as reconstituted as National Land Use and Wastelands Development council (NLWC) with prime minister as chairman. It emphasized the twin objectives of proper land use and development of watersheds. Under NLWC two separate bodies were created in 1985. These are:
The National Land Use and conservation Board (NLCB) in place of NLRCDC.The deputy chairman Planning commission is the chairman of the Board. Its members include secretaries of Department concerned of the central GOVT. and representatives from five states selected on rotational basis.
The National wasteland Development Board (NWDB) with the minister of Environment and forest as chairman. The principal aim of the NWDB was to bring about a qualitative change in the programme of reclamation of wastelands in the country through a massive programme of afforestation with the participation of the people.
In October 1989 the NWDB upgraded to the level of technology mission.
The country has paid a heavy price for its neglect of land use policies, especially those relating to the uncultivated land. Land policy is fairly well defined for private agricultural lands but it is not true for uncultivated lands- forest land, grazing lands, barren and unculturable lands which are fast becoming depleted lands. The basic issue is to ensure optimal management of land. The National Land Use policy enunciated by the Govt. of India in 1983 emphasizes the following action points directly relevant to wasteland improvement:
The problem of wasteland must be tackled on an emergency basis. Programmes must be drawn up for providing vegetative cover to 40 million hectares of degraded forests.
A massive campaign for increasing the land under productive use for fuel and fodder species needs to be launched.
Voluntary effort should be generally preferred in supporting these objectives. Efforts by farmers’ cooperatives and voluntary organizations should be fully recognized and assisted.
Mining of land for house building material such as bricks can be reduced by developing alternative building materials.
WASTELAND DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES:
Till the sixth five year plan, no specific programme of wasteland development was taken up. It is only in1985 with establishment of NWDB that the problem of wasteland development received a new thrust. With the setting up of NWDB, a number of new schemes were initiated to secure people‘s participation, besides continuation of ongoing afforestation schemes. These are:
Grants-in-aid to voluntary agencies * Ariel seeding programme
Decentralized People’s nurseries. *Plantation of minor forest produce
Silvipasture farms * Margin money schemes
Seed development * Rural employment scheme
Area oriented fuel wood and fodder projects
The review of different schemes shows that it is only in the 7th five year plan with setting up of NWDB that a wasteland development programme was formulated by adding to the existing afforestation schemes. The strategy of wasteland development however remained one-dimensional, with focus on tree planting activities only instead of adopting an integrated approach. Till the end of March, 2004, a total of 148 projects have been sanctioned under the Scheme at an outlay of Rs.143.23 Crores. Out of which, 63projects have been completed/foreclosed. Important activities undertaken under the Scheme include development of database on wastelands, promotion and testing of various agro-forestry models in different agro-climatic zones of the country, testing the cost-effective technologies for increasing the productivity of saline and alkaline soils, promotion of medicinal and herbal plantation on non-forest wastelands, composite technologies for water-harvesting, treatment of degraded lands through bio-fertilisersviz. Vermiculture, mycorrhiza, bio-pesticides, footstock model techniques and development of technology for Jojoba plantation in arid and semi arid areas through Israeli collaboration. Technical Brochures for development of different categories of problem lands have been brought out. The wasteland development action programme has performed rather unsatisfactorily with reference to the target of 5 mha a year. It lacked addressing ecological crises and people’s participation.
MAJOR ONGOING PROJECT:
IWDP (Integrated wasteland development Project) Scheme-This scheme is under implementation since 1989-90, and has come to this Department along with the National Wastelands Development Board. The development of non-forest wastelands is taken up under this Scheme. The scheme provides for the development of an entire micro watershed in an holistic manner rather than piecemeal treatment in sporadic patches.. The thrust of the scheme continues to be on development of wastelands.
Objectives: The basic objective of this scheme is an integrated wastelands development based on village/micro watershed plans. These plans are prepared after taking into consideration the land capability, site condition and local needs of the people. The scheme also aims at rural employment besides enhancing the contents of people's participation in the wastelands development programmes at all stages, which is ensured by providing modalities for equitable and sustainable sharing of benefits and usufructs arising from such projects.
Activities: The major activities taken up under the scheme are:
In situ soil and moisture conservation measures like terracing, bunding, trenching, vegetative barriers and drainage line treatment.
Planting and sowing of multi-purpose trees, shrubs, grasses, legumes and pasture land development.
Encouraging natural regeneration.
Promotion of agro-forestry & horticulture.
Wood substitution and fuel wood conservation measures.
Awareness raising, training & extension.
Encouraging people's participation through community organization and capacity building.
Drainage Line treatment by vegetative and engineering structures
Development of small water Harvesting Structures.
Afforestation of degraded forest and non forest wasteland.
Development and conservation of common Property Resources.
The regions under considerations are as follows in India:
Success story: A major success story of wasteland development is the Sivganga district of Tamilnadu. Where extensive jatropha plantation has been carried out on wasteland which is very much required for biofertilizer and it is beneficial also. Due to integrated development approach the fate of the people as well the optimum use of land resources has been done. The success story can be seen on the district website.
MODIFIED SRATEGIES AND SUGGESTIONS:
Keeping in view the lesson learnt the following suggestions need to be considered while revising strategy...
Govt. departments must view afforestation as a definite support to agriculture, e.g. shelterbelts, agro forestry, mixed plantation etc.
People’s involvement can be mobilized by understanding the community structure and their needs.
Sufficient funds should be earmarked and made available to finance projects aimed at integrated rural resource management which are multi disciplinary in nature at every stages.
Banks like NABARD should establish a separate line of credit for afforestation projects.
Suitable action plan should be taken up for integrated development of wastelands for ecological restoration and to meet essential needs of fuel wood, fodder and timber for local community.
The lab to land programme should seek to extensively popularize transfer of available technologies.
Sufficient advance planning should be done for raising nursery stock of the required species and quality to avoid planting of poor quality seedling stock and consequent failure of plantation.
All development projects e.g. mining, road, irrigation and power etc. which by their very nature either create wastelands or degraded local environment should earmark a budget provision in the project estimates for reclaiming such wastelands or regenerating natural vegetation so damaged.
RD.D.2 Rural Development programme, a magazine from Indira Gandhi National Open University school of continuing Education.