Wastelands Atlas – 2019

  • Recently, Ministry for Rural Development released the fifth edition of Wastelands Atlas – 2019, eight years after the last edition was published in 2011.
  • The Atlas has been prepared by the Department of Land Resources in collaboration with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC).
  • The changes in wastelands between 2008-09 and 2015-16 have been presented in the Atlas. Earlier, the Wasteland Atlas was published in the year 2000, 2005, 2010 & 2011.

Key Findings

  • India with 4% of total land area of the world is supporting 18% of the world’s population.
  • The per capita availability of agriculture land in India is 0.12 ha whereas world per capita agriculture land is 0.29 ha.
  • The effort has resulted in estimating the spatial extent of wastelands for entire country to the tune of 55.76 Mha(16.96 % of geographical area of the country i.e. 328.72 Mha) for the year 2015-16 as compared to 56.60 Mha (17.21%) in the year 2008-09. During this period 45 Mha of wastelands are converted into non wastelands categories.
  • Majority of wastelands have been changed into categories of croplands (0.64 Mha),forest-dense / open (0.28 Mha), forest plantation (0.029 Mha),plantation (0.057 Mha) and industrial area (0.035 Mha)
  • Positive changes can be seen in wastelands in the states of Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal.
  • There is a net conversion of 0.84 Mha (0.26%) of different wasteland categories in the country during 2008- 09 to 2015-16.
  • A reduction in wasteland area was observed in the categories of land with dense scrub, waterlogged and marshy land, sandy areas, degraded pastures / grazing land and gullied and / or ravenous land.


  • Providing Data about Unmapped Area: The Wastelands Atlas-2019 provides district and state wise distribution of different categories of wastelands area including mapping of about 12.08 Mha unmapped area of Jammu &Kashmir.
  • Boost to Wasteland Reclamation Schemes: Robust geospatial information on wastelands assumes significance and effectively helpful in rolling back the wastelands for productive use through various land development programmes.
  • Contribution to International Efforts: It can contribute to the globalresearch agenda operative in India on the implementation of the conservationagriculture and preservation of our natural resources and environment.
  • Tool to Climate Studies: Land degradation and data on the wastelands can also be used as an effective indicator in the climate change studies at the regional and global scales.


  • Wasteland is a degraded land which can be brought under vegetative cover, with reasonable effort, and which is currently under utilised and land which is deteriorating for lack of appropriate water and soil management or on account of natural causes.


  • Culturable Wasteland- The land which is has potential for the development of vegetative cover and is not being used due to different constraints of varying degrees, such as erosion, water logging, salinity etc.
  • Unculturable Wasteland- The land that cannot be developed for vegetative cover, for instance the barren rocky areas and snow covered glacier areas.

Wasteland based on Causative Agent


Cause of Increasing Wasteland

  • Increasing biotic pressure
  • Absence of adequate investments and appropriate management practices
  • High rate of Population growth and high incidence poverty in rural areas
  • Over-exploitation of National Resources
  • The break-down of traditional institutions for managing common property resources and failure of new institutions to fill the vacuum
  • Faulty land use practices

Reclamation of Wastelands:

The different methods used for the reclamation of wastelands are:

  • These lands can be brought under cultivation by using excess water and fertilizers. Afforestation and agronomical methods are used to conserve the soil, which help us to use it for agriculture.
  • Contour bunds are constructed which afford safe disposal of water of the catchment areas.
  • These lands can be used for settling the landless agricultural laborers.

Government Initiatives

National Wastelands Monitoring Project (NWMP)

  • Launched by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2006, it aims to providespatial information on wastelands with respect to their nature, magnitude of degradation, extent, spatial distribution of wasteland across the country.

Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP)

  • The basic objective IWDP is an integrated wastelands development based on village/micro watershed plans. These plans are prepared after taking into consideration the land capability, site condition and local needs of the people. The thrust of the scheme continues to be on development of wastelands.
  • The scheme also aims at rural employment besides enhancing the contents of people's participation in the wastelands development programmes at all stages, which is ensured by providing modalities for equitable and sustainable sharing of benefits and usufructs arising from such projects.

Drought Prone Area Programme(DPAP)

  • It focuses on the non-arable land and drainage lines for in-situ soil and moisture conservation programmeincludes agro- forestry, pasture development, horticulture and alternate land use.
  • The objective is of environmental protection and restoration of ecological balance through appropriate natural resource management technologies.

Desert Development Programme (DDP)


  • To mitigate the adverse effects of desertification and adverse climatic conditions on crops, human and livestock population, combating desertification.
  • To restore ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing natural resources i.e. land, water, vegetative cover and rising land productivity.
  • ​To implement developmental works through the watershed approach, for land development, water resource development and afforestation/pasture development.

Way Forward

  • The relentlessly increasing pressure of human and livestock population and the demands of urbanization and economic development have put a severe strain on our limited land resources with the result that the quality of land resources has been deteriorating threatening the ecological balance.
  • There is need to develop policies, which would result in the best use and sustainablemanagement of land and water resources so as to prevent land becoming degraded and waste in the light of country’s food and livelihood security.
  • Addressing the threat will entail thinking outside the box, which could include focusing on wasteland reclamation to offset anticipated crop production losses.
  • Besides augmenting production, investments in wasteland reclamation can also help restore ecosystem services such as climate regulation and aesthetics, and also increase biodiversity.
  • In order to accelerate the progress under various schemes there is need for initiating actions, viz. peoples’ participation and community organization need to be made very effective by building their capacity through structured training programs to ensure proper planning, implementation and monitoring that can achieve quantitative and qualitative objectives of the programmes.