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World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June

Topics covered:

Conservation related topics.


World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: 17 June


What to study?

For prelims: about WCDD- theme and significance.

For mains: what is desertification, causes, effects, Concerns and measures needed to prevent?


Context: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on June 17 every year.


The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2019 theme is ‘Let’s Grow the Future Together’ (Reflecting on 25 years of progress and envisaging to the next 25) encouraging people against depleting the land of its inbuilt resources.


Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals:

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, Goal 15 states our resolve to halt and reverse land degradation.


What is Desertification?

  • Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts.
  • It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.


Facts for Prelims:

About UNCCD: Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.


Concerns for India:

  • India has witnessed increase in the level of desertification in 26 of 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13, according to the State of India’s Environment (SoE) 2019 in Figures. 
  • Twenty-one drought-prone districts, of the 78 in the country that were identified by the Indian Space Research Organisation, have more than half of their areas under desertification.
  • Of these nine have also witnessed over two per cent increase in the area under desertification between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
  • More than 80 per cent of the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states: Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Top three districts with highest area under desertification or land degradation are Jaisalmer, Rajasthan (92.96 per cent during 2011-13 and 98.13 per cent during 2003-05), Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh (80.54 per cent during 2011-13 and 80.57 per cent during 2003-05) and Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir (78.23 per cent during 2011-13 and 78.22 per cent during 2003-05).


Main reasons that cause desertification in India are:

  • Water erosion (10.98 per cent).
  • Wind erosion (5.55 per cent).
  • Human-made/settlements (0.69 per cent).
  • Vegetation degradation (8.91 per cent).
  • Salinity (1.12 per cent).
  • Others (2.07 per cent).


Sources: the Hindu.

Mains Question: Differentiate between land degradation and desertification? Discuss impact of desertification on ecology.