Utilizing barren land

According to the government of India, under Seventh Schedule of Constitution of India, land comes under the purview of State Governments and as such suitable steps to check diversion of arable land for commercial non-agricultural purposes lies with the local administration. Nevertheless, Government of India under the National Policy for Farmers – 2007 (NPF-2007), advised States to earmark lands with low biological potential such as uncultivable land, land affected by salinity, acidity, etc., for non-agricultural development activities, including industrial and construction.

Also, National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy – 2007 (NRRP-2007) recommends that as far as possible, projects may be set up on waste land, degraded land or unirrigated land and acquisition of irrigated, multi-cropped agricultural land for non-agricultural uses may be kept to the minimum or avoided, to the extent possible.

Pertinently, as per the latest details shared by the centre, there are 6088.68 kanals of barren land in Jammu and Kashmir. All India scenario shows that 339384.45 kanals remain barren in 28 States (now 27 States and UT of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh).

According to the Special Report on Climate Change & Land of Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change released in August 2019, land use change, land-use intensification and climate change have contributed to desertification and land degradation. It highlights that climate change including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes has negatively impacted food security and terrestrial ecosystems as well as contributed to desertification and land degradation in many regions.

The government also informed that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed location specific bio-engineering soil and water conservation measure, land management techniques, soil reclamation measures for saline, alkali, waterlogged and acid soils, and agroforestry interventions to convert barren land into arable land across the country including Rajasthan. While Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (IISWC) has developed several location specific bio-engineering measures to check soil erosion due to run-off of rainwater, Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur has developed sand dune stabilization and shelter belt technology to check wind erosion.

Given the overall scenario amid looming food security related issues, the administration needs to focus on measures to bring the barren land under protective irrigation and plantation, both horticulture and afforestation. There is already considerable land identified by the government and as such there is a need to make efforts to convert the barren land into arable one. Also efforts must be made to ensure that agriculture and horticulture land is protected.

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