Current Status of the Land Resources
Since the dawn of civilisation land and water have been the basic elements of life support system in our planet. Great civilisations flourished where these resources was available in plenty and they declined or perished with their depletion.
Civilisations, therefore, learned to respect land as a resource, and to find the best ways of using it. Respect for the importance of the land as a resource is also depicted in the Hindu mythological concept of the Panchabhootas. As Gandhiji said, “the earth has enough for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed".
Pressure on land has increased particularly in view of the advent of the new forces of consumerism, materialistic value- systems and the obsession with short – term profits If we keep in mind the fact that the world’s population has doubled in the last 40 years the need for land - resource management becomes that much more important. Land is a finite resource.
India has 2.4% of the world’s total geographic area and is home to 17% of the world’s population. Like with any developing nation, India too is faced with challenges of growing population, growing needs and demands for economic development, judicial management of the land resources, clean water, food and other products from natural resources that results in degradation of land .
Therefore there is a need for optimal utilisation of land resources in order to ensure sustainability and avoid adverse land use conflicts.In India, land is a state subject. As a consequence of which, land use planning becomes the responsibility of the State Governments.
The FAO defines land use planning to be “systematic and iterative procedure carried out in order to create an enabling environment for sustainable development of land resources which meets people’s needs and demands”. We adopt this definition of land use planning since it is all encompassing and further places emphasis on sustainable development and distribution of the resource.
This definition can be understood as providing basis for the rational and sustainable use of land catering to various needs, including social, economic, developmental and environmental needs. Land is also known to be a capital asset offering opportunities for social and economic empowerment.
It helps in the creation of incentives for the user to invest labour and other resources. FAO suggests that more equitable land distribution creates access for the poor and provides a means of food production. It is also suggested that family farming provides a principal source of employment thus generating the income with which to buy food, and also helps in providing a safety net for the unemployed. If land resources are concentrated in just a few hands, it could potentially lead to inequitable patterns of income and wealth distribution.
The world population has been increasing rapidly since 1950s and reached to about 8 billion and more. It has been estimated that about 36% of the Earth’s bio-productive area is currently entirely dominated by humans, 37% partially disturbed and only about 27% undisturbed .
But contrastingly however, it has also been found that world over, more than 20% of the world population lives in extreme poverty on less than US$1 per capita per day despite the fact that the decadal economic growth rates for the world rates have averaged between 2 to 2.5 % for the last 3 years put together.
From an agricultural perspective it has been observed that to feed the current world population, an additional 4.9 million hectares of cropland is needed. Further, it has been predicted that due to urbanization, the world may further lose up to 3.3 million hectares of prime agricultural land.
This startling statistic assumes more critical importance given that deforestation and land degradation rates have been increasing globally due to a multitude of factors chief among which is climate change and the exponential increase in human consumption patterns of food grains and meat which result in cascading effects.