Land, a critically important national resource, supports all living organisms including plants as well as every primary production system such as roads, industries, communication and storage for surface and ground water,among others. The soil profile of land determines its ability to serve socio-economic needs. It has been estimated that more than 5,000 million tonnes of top soil is eroded annually alongwith about 5 million tonnes of nutrients. About a third of this is lost to the sea, while the rest builds the silt load in reservoirs and river beds leading to floods.
About 38% of the area in India suffers from moderate to high degree of water-based erosion, most of which needs suitable soil and water conservation measures such as Watershed Development. Arid areas suffering from moderate or high degree of soil loss comprise upto 4% of the geographical area. Therefore, about 42% of the countrys area requires soil & water conservation efforts on a priority basis. The efficient management of land is vital for economic growth and development of rural areas. The integrated thinking about the need for a land use policy started only in 1972 when a paper ntitled “A Charter for the Land” was circulated by Shri B.
B. Vohra. The paper highlighted the dependence of majority of our people on land for their livelihood and pleaded that care for this resource must rank high in our priorities notwithstanding that the Constitution has placed the subject in the State List. It is in this context that the Prime Minister in 1972 had given a challenge to the nation for working out a viable land use policy as follows: Encouraging traditional methods of water conservation under Integrated Wastelands Development Programme Land Resources . …
We can no longer afford to neglect our most important natural resource. This is not simply an environmental problem but one which is basic to the future of our country. The stark question enough to sustain a population of one billion by the end of the century at a higher standard of living than now prevails. We must have long term plans to meet this contingency. ” The per capita availability of land in the country has declined from 1. 37 hectare in 1901 to 0. 33 hectare in 2000. Moreover, all the land cannot be made available for agricultural purposes.
Some land would be required for other ctivities and would be located in centre of economic grouth. However, effective steps are required to be taken for preventing diversion of land suitable for sustainable farming to non-farm uses. Simultaneously, degraded lands and wastelands would require to be improved through efficient adoption of principles of ecological restoration. The Department of Land Resources (DOLR) was set up in April 1999 in the Ministry of Rural Development to act as a Nodal Agency for Land Resource Management.
All the land-based programmes/schemes, which earlier were with different Departments of the Ministry, were brought ithin the purview of the DOLR. The Area Development Programmes as well as the Wastelands Development Programme are now being implemented through the Watershed Development Approach in accordance with the Guidelines for Watershed Development formulated on the recommendations of the Hanumantha Rao Committee since April, 1995. For achieving comprehensive area development, instructions have also been issued for convergence of all rural development programmes in the areas where watershed development is taken up.
The Department comprises two Divisions, namely the Wastelands Development Division and he Land Reforms Division. Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development heads the Department. He is assisted by one Addl. Secretary, two Joint Secretaries and other officers and officials. The Wastelands Development Division has been implementing various programmes for the development of wastelands/degraded lands. The Development Programme, the Drought Prone Areas Programme, the Desert Development Programme and other allied matters.