Tuesday, January 26, 2016

History Of India Land Use Changes- 1880 To 2010

Notable Effort:

In India, human population has increased six-fold from 200 million to 1200 million that coupled with economic growth has resulted in significant land use and land cover (LULC) changes during 1880–2010. However, large discrepancies in the existing LULC datasets have hindered our efforts to better understand interactions among human activities, climate systems, and ecosystem in India. In this study, we incorporated high-resolution remote sensing datasets from Resourcesat-1 and historical archives at district (N = 590) and state (N = 30) levels to generate LULC datasets at 5 arc minute resolution during 1880–2010 in India. Results have shown that a significant loss of forests (from 89 million ha to 63 million ha) has occurred during the study period. Interestingly, the deforestation rate was relatively greater under the British rule (1880–1950s) and early decades after independence, and then decreased after the 1980s due to government policies to protect the forests. In contrast to forests, cropland area has increased from 92 million ha to 140.1 million ha during 1880–2010. Greater cropland expansion has occurred during the 1950–1980s that coincided with the period of farm mechanization, electrification, and introduction of high yielding crop varieties as a result of government policies to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. The rate of urbanization was slower during 1880–1940 but significantly increased after the 1950s probably due to rapid increase in population and economic growth in India. Our study provides the most reliable estimations of historical LULC at regional scale in India. This is the first attempt to incorporate newly developed high-resolution remote sensing datasets and inventory archives to reconstruct the time series of LULC records for such a long period in India. The spatial and temporal information on LULC derived from this study could be used by ecosystem, hydrological, and climate modeling as well as by policy makers for assessing the impacts of LULC on regional climate, water resources, and biogeochemical cycles in terrestrial ecosystems.

See this comparison

Source: Tian et al. 2014

The massive increase in cropland density over the Indo-Gangetic plain and the diminishing of forest over the Himalayan belts, Central India and Western Ghats is brought out starkly. The forests of the north east though appear to be in a better shape somewhat than other parts of India.

The paper makes a good point that deforestation was higher during colonial times and early days of Independence. The British saw forests as a resource to be exploited, a legacy that continued  after Independence as well. Post 1980's, Forest protection policies did put the brakes on massive deforestation. This however hides some details. Two year surveys of forest cover and forest health by Forest Survey of India reveals that denser canopy forests are being degraded, prime forest land continues to be diverted for development, and the band aid and balancing the book trick that is known as compensatory afforestation is not always meeting its goals and occasionally ends up causing more damage to the environment.

The article comes with lots of details about methodology used and a good reference list.

Open Access

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