Land is a finite resource. Land availability is only about 20% of the earth’s surface. Land is crucial for all developmental activities, for natural resources, ecosystem services and for agriculture. Growing population, growing needs and demands for economic development, clean water, food and other products from natural resources, as well as degradation of land and negative environmental impacts are posing increasing pressures to the land resources in many countries of the world.
India covers an area of 32,87,263 sq km. According to area size, it is the seventh largest country of the world after Russia, Canada, China, U.S.A., Brazil and Egypt. This vast size itself is the most important resource. About 30 per cent of area is covered by the mountains which are source of scenic beauty, perennial rivers, home of forests and wildlife. About 43 per cent of land area is plain which is highly suitable for agriculture. Remaining about 27 percent under plateaus is the store house of minerals and metals.
The land-use categories as maintained in the Land Revenue Records are as follows :
(i) Forests : In India, at present forest areas cover about 76.5 million hectares of land, which is about 23 per cent of the total geographical area. It ranges from about 87 per cent in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to only about 4 percent in Haryana making to range difference of 83 percent. According to our National Forest Policy, 33% of the total geographical area of the country should be under the forest cover to maintain ecological balance.
(ii) Land put to Non-agricultural Uses : Land under settlements (rural and urban), infrastructure (roads, canals, etc.), industries, shops, etc. are included in this category. An expansion in the secondary and tertiary activitieswould lead to an increase in this category of land-use.
(iii) Barren and Wastelands : The land which may be classified as a wasteland such as barren hilly terrains, desert lands, ravines, etc. normally cannot be brought under cultivation with the available technology.
(iv) Area under Permanent Pastures and Grazing Lands : Most of this type land is owned by the village ‘Panchayat’ or the Government. Only a small proportion of this land is privately owned. The land owned by the village panchayat comes under ‘Common Property Resources’.
(v) Area under Miscellaneous Tree Crops and Groves(Not included is Net sown Area) : The land under orchards and fruit trees are included in this category. Much of this land is privately owned.
(vi) Culturable Waste-Land : Any land which is left fallow (uncultivated) for more than five years is included in this category. It can be brought under cultivation after improving it through reclamation practices.
(vii) Current Fallow : This is the land which is left without cultivation for one or less than one agricultural year. Fallowing is a cultural practice adopted for giving the land rest. The land recoups the lost fertility through natural processes.
(viii) Fallow other than Current Fallow : This is also a cultivable land which is left uncultivated for more than a year but less than five years. If the land is left uncultivated for more than five years, it would be categorised as culturable wasteland. (ix) Net Area Sown : The physical extent of land on which crops are sown and harvested is known as net sown area.