Need of this?

  • Land, the bedrock of human existence, plays a pivotal role in shaping our lives.
  • It provides ecological sustenance, economic opportunities, social stability, and cultural identity.
  • However, the multi-dimensional nature of land often eludes our attention, leading to detrimental consequences such as stress, degradation, and environmental decline.
  • Globally, the annual losses of ecosystem services due to land degradation have been staggering, estimated at a whopping $6 trillion. 
  • In India, where only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area accommodates more than 17% of the global population, land management challenges are particularly acute.

The Indian Landscape:

  • Arable Land and Forest Cover: India’s arable land constitutes approximately 55% of its total geographical area, while forest cover accounts for another 22%. The remaining land includes deserts, mountains, and other terrains.
  • Degraded Land: Around 30% of India’s total geographical area suffers from degradation. This alarming figure underscores the urgency of effective land management.
  • Livelihood Dependence: A significant portion of the population relies on agriculture for sustenance. Access to agricultural land remains a critical livelihood issue.
  • Unprecedented Pressure: Development goals, population growth, urbanization, and infrastructure demands exert unprecedented pressure on land. Farmers compete for shrinking resources, leading to escalating land prices and changing land rights.
  • Ecological Functions at Risk: Natural areas are shrinking, and ecological functions are eroding. This not only affects livelihoods but also compromises the buffering effects of ecosystems against disasters like floods, droughts, and pollution.

Current Landscape of Land Management:

  • Sectoral Approach: India’s land management practices are often sectoral, with each department following its own approach. This fragmented system lacks holistic vision and coordination.
  • State-Level Jurisdiction: Land management falls under the purview of state governments. Consequently, policies and practices vary across states.
  • Private Ownership: Cultural land is predominantly privately owned, and land-use decisions rest with individual owners.

Imperatives for an Expansive Land Management Policy:

  • Multi-Stakeholder Platform: Establishing a robust multi-stakeholder platform at the district and sub-district levels is imperative. This collaborative approach can integrate diverse perspectives and address local nuances.
  • Country-Level Stocktaking: India should conduct a comprehensive stocktaking of land management practices. Learning from successful models and identifying gaps will inform evidence-based policies.
  • Balancing Competing Demands: Land management options must strike a delicate balance between competing uses. Co-benefits and minimal negative impacts on ecosystem services should guide decision-making.
  • Long-Term Vision: Urgency must prevail in caring for the long-term future of land, soil, and water. Sustainable land management is not a luxury but a necessity.


India’s land management policy must transcend administrative boundaries and embrace a holistic perspective. Only then can we safeguard our land, nurture our ecosystems, and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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