Land Resources

SPWD’s  tryst with land started  in the early eighties in response to the concern for land degradation expressed in many quarters  when a number of concerned scientists, academicians, government servants and members  got together to form the Society. The first major task undertaken was to estimate the wastelands in the country (1984). The exercise was a path breaking one, as for the first time the following was attempted.

  • Define wastelands in terms of unstable ecological systems and potential productivity.
  • Eliminate overlaps in various estimates.

The exercise provided the basis for targets set by the Prime minister while forming the wastelands development Board in 1985. SPWD’s concrete attempts at wastelands reclamation drew inspiration from the attempt to involve the people of Sukmojari in soil and water conservation as part of the effort to revive Sukhna lake in Chandigarh. The approach of involvement of people led to a number of new initiatives as the principle of people’s involvement was translated in the field. In Jawaja, the Jawaja project group (now Magra Mewar Vikas Sansthan), initially involved school children in dibbling of seeds and planting of saplings. Later using the concept of decentralized nurseries, local people were involved to plant fuelwood and fodder plants. Even later, systematic work on common lands could be done in 10% of the villages covered.  In Hardoi, UP the initial plan to plant up usar (alkaline) lands to trees was shelved and the lands were developed for agriculture using technology from Karnal. The approach later developed many facets like the Waasteland integrated research project to provide a sustainable alternative to drought and livelihood in Maharashtra, treatment of Gomals in Karnataka, tank revival in Andhra Pradesh, the sixty, forty system for water storage and stabilizing of the rice crop in Purulia, revival of traditional practices of medicine in the tribal belt of Nandurbar, working on improved agricultural practices in Sundarbans to name a few. A people’s perspective for Uttrakhand was also developed following this approach which tried to tailor make technical solutions to the peculiar conditions in different parts of the state (altitude and aspect being major natural resource determining factors).

Following these initiatives, SPWD began to understand that the nature and type of land degradation is intrinsic to the socio-economic, climatic and topographical features of the region.  A number of projects took a more integrated approach as a result. Watershed development followed by the sub basin approach and its relation to ecology and livelihoods on one hand and water governance on the other was natural outcomes of this process. On the other hand the institutional possibilities offered by joint forest management were explored. SPWD’s work on institutional development took many shapes. Detailed process documentation in Udaipur highlighted various aspects. The major one being the implications of fragmented communities and the need for a dynamic approach to institutional development.

In 2005, the Government move to introduce to introduce biofuel on a large scale on wastelands was viewed with concern in many quarters. SPWD undertook a study of the programme in six states and came out with a report on the issue in 2007. The report highlighted the need to look at many facets of land use namely food, fodder, energy, biodiversity and livelihoods. This approach has been taken up by SPWD in various project locations. Detailed studies and investigations reveal that practical sustainable approaches are not possible without concretely looking at implications on ecology and livelihoods.

Almost simultaneous to this effort, as part of SPWD’s silver jubilee initiative, two pilot studies were undertaken as to how to characterize the wastelands in the context of the wasteland maps brought out by National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) using remote sensing technology. The pilots have resulted in a project funded by Department of Land resources (DoLR) for sub basin level study of seven agro-ecological regions in order to characterize the wastelands in these regions, and come out with typologies. These studies using remote sensing data on one hand and GIS technology on the other will help develop a flexible methodology to initially understand the formation of wastelands and its various inter-linkages and later to facilitate local communities / stake holders to implement need based sustainable programmes. The project will also try to address the concerns of DoLR in the process. SPWD currently is in the process of formulating a land use programme that takes on Board the various facets understood above.  Using this approach and the information gathered from various project locations SPWD will also be looking at the implications of climate change on land use and vice versa as well.

Wasteland Characterization

The objective of the exercise is to categorize and estimate wastelands in a manner that would help understand the phenomenon of land degradation in a given physical and institutional environment that is caused by and in turn impacts land-use affecting the socio-economy of the people as well as human ecology.
Initially it was planned that five pilots would be done in different locations of the country namely. Ultimately it was possible to systematically do two pilots namely Jaisamand and Rampachodavaram.  The pilot phase was completed in December 2007.
The project sanctioned by DoLR is taken up in two phases. Four projects were taken up in the first phase comprising of one and a half years (2007 -2009). These projects include:

  • Bhusawal taluka, Jalgaon district, Maharashtra.
  • Narayanapatana hills between Parvatipuram, Vizianagram district and Gunupur, Rayagada in the Nagavalli river basin.
  • Chandrabadani watershed, Tehri Garhwal, Uttaranchal.
  • Bokaro sub-basin of Damodar river basin, Mandu block, Hazaribagh district, Jharkhand.

Three projects are taken up in the second phase of one and a half years (2009-10). These projects include:
a)Jaisalmer block, Jaisalmer district, Kak river basin, Rajasthan
b)Sub-basin, Vadodara, of mahi River basin in Gujarat
c)Madanapalle mandal, Bahuda sub-basin, Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh
The pilot done in Jaisamand has been the basis for a draft note on the methodology to be followed in the first phase of the project sanctioned by DoLR.

Landuse Planning & Management

Considering the importance of the Bio-fuel programme taken up on a nationwide basis, SPWD played a lead role in conducting a study spread over the States of Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand , Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat . The findings of the study as also the related developments in connection with land allotment have led to the conclusion that in the context of India, where there is severe pressure on land. The needs of food, fodder, energy and livelihood security need to be carefully looked into.

A similar concern is echoed in the paper on Land Degradation and poverty among States in India: Evidence and policy implications by Amita Shah presented at the Regional Workshop of Western Region held in September 2006. The paper highlighted the need to take account of ‘the multifarious functions performed by land. It is therefore essential that issues pertaining to management, access and use of land be discussed in the light of ecological economist perspective, which allows for appropriate valuation of land and identifies policy instruments for ensuring its sustainable use’.
A perspective paper on the land use issue has been. The paper initiates the process of trying to place the land use question in the context of the different demands on land on the one hand and the context of rainfall patterns and productivity issue on the other. The complete paper providing the basis for SPWD interventions across the country, the model being envisaged is as follows

  • Lessons that can be learnt from the two pilot wastelands characterization exercises in Jaisamand and Rampachodavaram.
  • How the proposed Wastelands characterization exercise planned in different agro climatic regions across the country will help SPWD to arrive at mix of Regional, State and National specific policy level issues. Since all the regions have been selected on the basis of replicability of the study and applicability of this for local land use planning, the policy issue will not merely be study oriented, but related to implementation of more systematic land use planning keeping the livelihood needs of the poor and marginal into consideration.
  • Tracking of various circulars, orders and acts relating to allotment of land and governance issues. This will include the allotment of land to industry, CBOs etc, Forest Rights Act 2006, Panchayati Raj Act, PESA etc. ( Excel sheet attached gives a state wise synopsis of various government , orders , circulars etc relating to allotment of land to industry/ CBOs )
  • Facilitating discussing on the various dimensions of land use in selected States across the country.
  • Special focus on bio diesel and its implications for land use, livelihood and energy security. This will feed into the national network on Bio diesel which has been proposed.