New Delhi: Desertification is affecting an 81.4 million-hectare area in the country, Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
    
The findings came to light on account of desertification and land mapping carried out by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
    
"ISRO has carried out desertification and land degradation mapping on a 1:500,000 scale using Indian Remote Sensing Satellites data of 2003-05 time frame, which indicates that an 81.4 million-hectare area of the country is undergoing a process of desertification," Rawat said.
    
To prevent soil erosion, desertification and to maintain balance in different type of land uses, the government of India has worked out an action plan for development under various watershed development programmes, the minister added.
    
The government plans to develop about 32 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of Rs 25,848 crore during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12), Rawat said.
    
According to a top agriculture scientist, desertification is affecting about 120 million hectares of land in the country.
    
Around 120 million hectares of land has been affected by desertification in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, the North-Eastern Hilly Regions (NEHR) and some areas of Punjab and Haryana, Agriculture Scientist Recruitment Board (ASRB) Chairman Gurbachan Singh had said.
    
Climatic variations and ill-adapted human activities like intensive agriculture, overgrazing and deforestation are some of the reasons behind rise in desertification of land, Singh -- who was earlier the Agriculture Commissioner -- had pointed out.

Agencies