Desertification - Meaning, Impacts, Measures

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 19, 2022, 6:18

Recently, the Government of India hosted the 14th conference of member parties in the United Nations Convention to find ways to combat the global issue of desertification. Also, as a positive measure in this direction, the United Nations announced 17th June as the World Day to Combat Desertification.

The theme for the year 2021 was "Turning degraded land into healthy land," which encourages individuals to minimize land depletion and wastage of natural resources.

Desertification Meaning

Desertification refers to the process of land degradation in which fertile land turns barren by losing its natural resources like fauna or flora, caused due to deforestation, drought, climate flux, human actions, or inappropriate agriculture. In simpler terms, desertification happens when the soil on land cannot support livestock, crops, and wildlife.

Primary Causes of Desertification

Some of the primary causes of desertification are as follows:

  • Overgrazing

Overgrazing happens when farmers let cattle, goats, and sheep deplete the vegetation in the area, leading to soil erosion. Sometimes, poor irrigation methods decrease the soil quality and lead to desertification.

  • Climate change

Given the constant rise in Earth's temperature, desert areas are getting arider and hotter. There is usually less rainfall in these areas and a higher number of extreme weather occurrences. This excess heat leads to draught that causes trees and plants to die.

  • Rampant population growth

Rampant population growth adds to all these issues as when the population increases, people demand more and more natural resources.

Farmers start breeding more cattle and livestock who overeat the land and do not allow the crops to grow to their maximum potential.

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Damaging Impacts of Desertification

Some of the damaging impacts of desertification are mentioned below:

Environmental impact

  • Destruction of vegetation
  • Increase in soil erosion
  • Soil infertility
  • Increased susceptibility to natural disasters
  • Land degradation
  • Water pollution
  • Extinction of species and loss of biodiversity

Social impact

  • Increase in poverty, famine, and social conflicts
  • Environmental migration and mass migrations
  • Food security problems

Economical Impact

  • Increased occurrences of natural hazards
  • Threat to agricultural productivity
  • A decline in economic productivity

Preventive Measures to Curb Desertification in India

Some preventive measures taken by the Indian Government to curb the adverse impacts of desertification in India are as follows:

  • Command Area Development

This preventive measure, launched in 1974, strives to enhance the country's irrigation potential use and optimize agricultural output through effective water management.

  • Integrated Watershed Management Program

This desertification program was launched between 1989-90 and aims to revive ecological balance by conserving, harnessing, and improving degraded Earth's resources while creating rural employment.

  • National Action Program to Combat Desertification

Implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, this preventive measure aims to address the concerns of rising desertification and take appropriate measures.

In a nutshell, curbing the instances of desertification is the best way to balance the damaging impact of climate change and protect wildlife species.

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FAQs on Desertification

Q.1. What are the environmental impacts of desertification in India?

Some environmental impacts of Desertification in India are as follows:

  • Destruction of vegetation
  • Increased soil erosion
  • Soil infertility
  • Increased susceptibility to natural disasters
  • Land degradation
  • Water pollution
  • Extinction of species and Loss of biodiversity

Q.2. When is the World Day to Combat Desertification observed?

The World Day to Combat Desertification is observed on 17th June every year.

Q.3. What do we mean by desertification?

Desertification refers to the process of land degradation in which fertile land turns barren by losing its natural resources like fauna or flora, caused due to deforestation, drought, climate flux, human actions, or inappropriate agriculture.

Q.4. What was the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification 2021?

The theme for the year 2021 was "Turning degraded land into healthy land", which encourages individuals to minimize land depletion and wastage of natural resources.