In FY16, Jammu & Kashmir had the largest area of wastelands in the country, which was more than double of wastelands in Rajasthan.
One-sixth of India’s land is either barren or overgrown with vegetation that has turned wild. These lands are called wastelands which are economically unproductive, ecologically unsuitable and subject to environmental deterioration. Ironically, these wastelands are further increasing in 11 states, including Odisha, Assam, and Telangana, Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Rural Development, said in a reply to a question in Rajya Sabha. Wastelands are formed by both natural and man-made reasons such as snow-covered areas, coastal saline area forest blank, barren hill-ridges, etc. Deforestation, overgrazing, over-cultivation and unskilled irrigation also majorly contribute to the formation of wastelands.
In FY16, Jammu & Kashmir had the largest area of wastelands in the country, which was more than double of wastelands in Rajasthan, the state with the second-largest area of wastelands in the country. These two states are followed by Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in terms of the maximum area of wastelands.
Compared to the population growth in India, the country has a much smaller geographical area, which generates the need for quick urbanisation. Also, a large cattle population in India is a major reason behind the overgrazing of the farmlands. These pressures have influenced the proportion of land used for farming and construction over time.
However, the wastelands can also be recovered by various measures after which they can contribute to the economic and social development of the country. By improving the physical structure and the quality of the soil, improving the quality of water and make it available, and by preventing soil erosion and landslides, such lands can be utilised in productive ways. Also, the wastelands have the problems of nitrogen and phosphorus deficiency that can be improved by the plantation of certain seedlings and heavy afforestation programmes.