New Delhi: An estimated 32 percent of India's total land area is affected by land degradation, most of which is undergoing desertification which has severe implications for livelihood and food security, an Environment Ministry report said on Monday.

About 69 percent of the country is dry land- arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid and "degradation has severe implications for livelihood and food security" for millions of people living in these heavily populated areas, said India's 4th National Report to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), 2010.

The UNCCD is a convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programmes.

"81.45 million hectares or 24.8 percent of the country's geographic area is undergoing desertification," said the report, which provides a holistic overview capturing comprehensively India's policies and programme related to desertification, land degradation and drought.

The report said that water and soil erosion are major causes of land degradation and water erosion is most prominent in agricultural regions.

"The key anthropogenic factors resulting in degradation are unsustainable agricultural practices, diversion of land to development programmes, industrial effluents, mining and deforestation," it said.

The report said that unsustainable resource management practices drive desertification, and accentuate the poverty of people affected by desertification.

"Land rehabilitation has been a major priority since Independence and several policies and government agencies address desertification and degradation," it said.

In his foreword note, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that poverty and environmental degradation are major problems in dry lands, where forests and trees contribute significantly to rural livelihoods.

"In order to eradicate poverty in the dry lands, it is important to protect the land from deforestation, fragmentation, degradation and drought," he said.

The Minister said that in order to tackle the issues of desertification, land degradation and droughts, 22 major programmes are being implemented in the country  including the ‘Mission for Green India’, which will address dry land forests, in addition to other ecosystems.