India: The Department of Land Resources (DoLR) in the rural development ministry, India, is collaborating with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to find out the change in the pattern of wastelands over the past two decades with the help of data provided by satellites.
Officials said that a study by NRSC, expected to be completed by the year end, will throw light on why and how wastelands have reduced over the years.
According to data available with DoLR, the area occupied by wastelands in the country was assessed at 63.85 million hectare in a project spanning five phases — between 1986 and 2000. A similar exercise in 2003 revealed that wastelands had shrunk by 8.21 million hectares.
The latest Wasteland Atlas of India, based on mapping done in 2005-06 with satellite data, showed a further fall in wastelands, to 47.22 million hectares – a decrease of 8.41 million hectares.
DoLR officials said one of the handicaps in determining the reasons for the sharp decline was lack of three-season comparative data.
The three-seasons – kharif (autumn), rabi (spring) and zaid (extra harvest) – comparative data gives a far more accurate spatial distribution of wastelands compared to mapping in a single season, an official said.
Officials said that shrinking of wastelands can be due to reclamation programmes of the rural development ministry and other wings of the state and central governments as well as the inconsistencies in definition and number of categories.