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  • In India out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares, over 150 million-hectares area is suffering from different kinds of degradation such as erosion, salinity and alkalinity and water logging. Wind and water erosion alone contribute 83% of total degraded area (Source: Punjab State Land Use Board). Similarly Intensive agriculture is posing a serious problem for sustainable agriculture production in the Punjab. Over exploitation of soil and water resources has led to the problem of soil degradation and declining water table in the large areas of Punjab.
  • Punjab has 0.25 hectare of per capita availability of land. Out of total land area of 5036000 hectare, 228840 hectare (4.54% of Total area) is suffering from different kinds soil problems (Source: Punjab State Land Use Board).The state also had a large area under various categories of waste lands two decades ago (as per Wasteland Atlas of India, 2003, “the land which is degraded and is presently lying unutilized except current fallow due to different constraints” is called wasteland). Only 2.33% (1172.84 sq km) of total area of the state is under various categories of wastelands (Source: Wasteland Atlas of India, 2003). Mukatsar district has highest area (186.8 sq km) under waste lands, followed by Ferozpur (148.1 sq km), Bathinda (144.4 sq km) and Gurdaspur (94.5 sq km).
  • A comparison with other states indicates that Punjab has the smallest area categorized under wastelands. Other agriculturally progressive states like Haryana (7.39%), Uttar Pradesh (7.05%), Karnataka (7.06%) and Maharashtra (12%) have large areas in this category. At national level, 17.45% of total geographical area of the country is categorized as waste/degraded lands. Prior to reorganization of the state there were long belts of sand dunes in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Sangrur and in cotton belt of Bathinda, Mansa and Faridkot. These sand dunes have been cleared/ leveled by farmers to bring them under irrigated agriculture. During the past 20 to 25 years farmers have also reclaimed the salt affected soils. Due to the construction of dams over various rivers, large areas in flood plains have also been brought under cultivation with the initiation of various watershed development programmes during past 15 years. The problem of water logging has also been controlled in several areas by constructing large number of drains, sand dunes have been cleared/ leveled by farmers to bring them under irrigated.
  • The state of Punjab is one of the most advanced agrarian states in India. About 83.13% of total geographical area of the state is cultivated and any further increase in the area may only be possible by reclaiming various categories of degraded lands which have been rendered as wastelands. The major area in Punjab barring Shiwalik hills forms part of Indo-Gangetic alluvial plain. Low lying pockets in the alluvial plain of Punjab are having the problem of water logging, soils salinity and/or alkalinity etc. Thus, conservation of land resources needs to be taken on priority to support the livelihood of rural people and remain self sufficient in food requirement of the country. It is not easy to restore the productivity of the degraded soils, as steps to restore productivity are as complex as the process of soil degradation. Extremely degraded soils are difficult to be restored but these can be rehabilitated through alternative land uses. Light to moderate process can be checked and production potential of soils can be restored through scientific land management practices.

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CONSERVATION MEASURES TO RESTORE PRODUCTIVITY

  • Alternative land Use

o    Introduction of forestry species or fruit species in place of rising of traditional field crops or intercropping trees with field crops have proved to be helpful in restoring productivity of soils and increasing profit of farmers.

o    Eco friendly systems based on the use of nitrogen fixing tress such as Leucaena leucocephala (subabul) has potential to bring about favorable changes in soil properties by promoting soil conservation.

o    Perennial plants have capacity to grow under unfavorable conditions. Fast growing tree species like Eucalyptus are used effectively for bio drainage in waterlogged soils.

o    Prosopis Juliflora, Terminalia arjuna (arjun) and Albizzia lebbek (siris), Acacia nilotica (kikar/babul) and Eucalyptus tereticornis (safeda) have proved more useful in management of alkali soils.

o    These trees have the capacity to reduce soil pH and salt content by increasing organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content.

  • Agro-Forestry System

o    Tree Species have ameliorative capacity for land restoration. The plantation adds sufficient residues to soil reduce run off and soil loss besides providing economic returns to the farmers.

o    Multipurpose tree species can be introduced into agro forestry systems to regenerate soil health without any appreciable investments.

o    Ameliorative capacity of trees can be utilized by mixed cropping of tress with crops: the common system is called agro-forestry

Intercropping System

o    Introduction of legumes through crop rotation, intercropping, mixed cropping or some other forms add leaf litter to soil for fertility and organic matter build up.

o    Nitrogen content is also improved by biological nitrogen fixation. Growing of cluster bean in single growing period provides around 8.00 and 8.67 q/ ha of residue through leaves and stalks, respectively containing 1.46% and 0.96% of nitrogen.

  • Recycling of Crop Residue

o    Degraded soils are inherently poor in fertility and crop production, therefore invariable respond to fertilizer application. Efficiency of inorganic fertilizers is often low and results in uneconomic return to the users.

o    Up to fifty percent substitution of fertilizers nitrogen requirement by farmyard manure results almost similar yield as obtained with complete fertilizing.

o    Application of FYM not only increased N-use efficiency of urea but also improved the fertility status of soils. Crop residues are efficient source of nutrient substitution for FYM and compost.

o    These residue can be left on the soil as mulch or can be incorporated the soil as `Green manure` for supplying nutrients and soil environment.

o    It has been observed from hydrological studies that some model watersheds with suitable site specific soil and water conservation measures not only protected the land from degradation in watershed but also enhance the productivity.

o    Keeping this in view a watershed area of 550 ha in southeastern part of Punjab in district Patiala was selected for wasteland development under IWDP scheme funded by ministry of Rural development, Government of India.  


Source: Department of Soil & Water Conservation, Punjab