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«Dissertation Zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades Doctor rerum agriculturarum (Dr. rer. agr) eingereicht an der Landwirtschaftlich-Gärtnerischen ...»

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Such population pressure also causes other types of land degradation, e.g., overgrazing, over-cropping, and lower soil fertility, as shown in Figure 2.2, together with some social problems such as poverty, poor management of a farm system, and the loss of traditional agricultural framing practices (UNCCD 2003). In addition to the afore-mentioned problems, deforestation for agriculture and city expansion is common because of population pressure, and urban expansion has emerged as a major form of land degradation, since most of the agricultural land is being converted into plots for lodgings or industries (FAO 1992).

In 1980, four million hectares of forests were cleared in Asia for agriculture. Indonesia is an interesting case where deforestation was started in the Seventies, when there was a boom in a timber market at a World level. At that time, Indonesia was the most important exporter of wood logs in the international market, and this contributed a major source of earning to its GDP. Thus, Indonesian forests were degraded at an extremely high rate, which was estimated as 2.4 percent per annum in 1993 (WRM 1994).

According to the United Nations, Dryland are areas with an aridity index value of less than 0.65; they comprise dry sub-humid, semi-arid, arid and hyper-arid areas.

Figure 2.2: Causes of Land Degradation in Asia and Pacific Region Source: UNEP/ISRIC (1990) Land in Asia is mostly dryland and is a major cause of desertification.

Failure to undertake resource management polices in these semi-arid and arid areas has caused land degradation by overgrazing, overexploitation of land and water resources, cultivation, and population pressure (Hong Ma and Hongbo Ju 2007: 55). As shown in Figure 2.2, desertification in Asia is caused by overgrazing in Middle, East, and Central Asia. This is a great problem in those regions where laws for grassland are not existed. Cattle are privately owned, but grassland is common property, and in these areas, overgrazing is increasing and causing loss of pasture areas. Sixty six percent of Kazakhstan is affected by desertification and drought. Similarly, eighty percent of the land has lost its productivity in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Erosion has an extremely bad effect on eighty eight percent of the arable land of Kyrgyzstan and on ninety seven percent of the agricultural land of Tajikistan (UNESCAP 2007). Water erosion of the cultivated lands is common in China, and salinity and waterlogging can be observed in Iraq, Pakistan, and Russia (FAO 1992). As shown in Figure 2.1, Asia is at high risk of desertification as a total of 15,670,000 km2 area is affected and 3,210,000 km2 is experiencing severe effects. The remaining 7,980,000 km2 has light desertification (Dregne 1986: 3).

Like the rest of the World, Asia also has a problem of land loss for agricultural production attributable to city expansion. The fast growth in industrial and other sectors is the main cause of increment in the population of large cities, together with the need for more houses and more places to live and work; a rapid expansion of urbanization has thus resulted. According to the definition of Johnson and Lewis (2007), the loss of biomass is considered as land degradation. Land is fixed in supply, and so the ultimate result is the use of agricultural land for urban expansion (Brunn, Williams and Ziegler 1992, Van 2006: 1), e.g., China has reduced approximately 20 percent of its agricultural production since 1978, mostly because of rural industrialization and small-town growth (FAO 2006). Israel, which was basically an agrarian economy and had a large setup of agricultural land, shifted most of the burden of its economy on the industrial sector in 1980, and the agricultural sector became economically unstable, contributing only at the domestic level (Fietelson 2002: 5).

Land degradation is increasing because of poor management policies and the weak institutional setup. Some nations are trying to solve this problem, e.g., in Egypt, the government is attempting to cover the ongoing land degradation process, but instead of cultivating old defective land, they have brought new land under cultivation and have increased productivity. To maintain this level of production, the government has introduced some policies (Nielsen et al. 2005: 159), starting a strategic plan with the collaboration of the United Nations in the coastal areas; through this management plan, they are also trying to reclaim their cultivable land, which is being degraded because of urbanization (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) 2007: 18). Similarly, Iraq, which has also been a great victim of land degradation in the Middle East, has followed some new polices by the government and has solved most of this problem in the marshes. Now there is possibility of vegetation growing in marshes after flooding them. Both the government and the local people are trying hard to recover the old habitation in their native environment (ibid). Clearly, in the Middle East (Asia), the observed beneficial trend in vegetation has occurred because of government policies and local scale practices, indicating the vital role played by the institutions in removing land degradation (Nielsen et al. 2005: 159). In Turkey, improper land distribution is a major cause of land degradation. In some places, the farm size is too large and is difficult to handle; in some places, however, the land parcels are small as a consequence of the sharing of inheritance. Such small pieces of land have contours that make plowing difficult. The introduction of land property rights for farmers has been extremely helpful in resolving this issue (Günay 2001: 3-4).

2.4.2 Causes of Land Degradation in South Asia

South Asia is a region containing eight countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan (UN). Most of the economies of this region rely on agriculture as sixty one percent of the population earns from this sector. Total crop land is about thirty five percent of the region; pasture and forest both consist of fifteen percent (UN/FAO 1991). In comparison to land resources, these countries have high population densities. This is the main cause of the over-cultivation of land to fulfill the local needs; the usage of fertilizers in 2000 was much higher than in previous years (FAO 2003: 6).

Other main reasons of land degradation are the types of land, soil, vegetation, and irrigation systems (UN/FAO 2004: 4). This region is mainly affected by six different types of land degradation, viz., water erosion, wind erosion, soil fertility, waterlogging, salinity, and a high water Table. Some other types of degradation are also observed, such as overgrazing of rangeland, deforestation, and desertification (UN/FAO 2004: 5). Soil fertility decreased in India, Bangladesh, and other countries when they under-used fertilizers. Wind and water erosion is also common in these countries.

The area affected by water erosion is approximately thirty percent in both India and Sri Lanka, whereas Bhutan has a minimum of fourteen percent (Lynden and Oldeman 1997: 18).

If we compare these figures with the figures of a study of UN/ FAO (1992: 6), then in India, it was eighteen percent; in Sri Lanka, it was forty six percent; and in Bhutan, it was ten percent.

This is an alarming situation for India. Another type of degradation is wind erosion, in which

nearly ten percent of the area of Pakistan was affected in 1997 (Lynden and Oldeman 1997:


Deforestation in this region is caused by an anthropogenic process, as the use of wood for domestic purposes and even for commercial use and the over-utilization of vegetation is the reason for the unsustainable growth of forests. Population pressure also places a strong burden through the water erosion, wind erosion, and the decrease in the soil fertility on the land; most parts of the region have become less productive.

Poverty is another the main causes of land degradation in these countries (Perera and Fernando 2004: 13). The income of half a billion people in this region is less than one dollar per day. Most of the population rely on agriculture, and in the absence of any other income generation source, they are totally dependent on their small land holdings. Poverty does not allow them to manage their resources in a sustainable way. The clearing of forests, overgrazing, and the imbalanced use of fertilizer are also related to this lack of management caused by poverty (ibid).

Agricultural land loss for the settlement of population and the development of cities is also a common problem in this area. Human settlement doe not occur in a uniform pattern (Perera and Fernando 2004: 6). Dhaka city is a common example of this aspect in the region where, because of city expansion, many fruit orchards were destroyed. Khulna is another case, which was an important center for agricultural production with excellent dryland (Bangladesh: State of the Environment 2001).

The issue of land degradation can actually be solved by policies and planning. Nepal has lost twenty seven percent of its forests for firewood and energy resources. People also cut down the forest for agricultural farmland and pasture where overgrazing causes damage.

However, this problem of deforestation in Nepal was solved 30 years ago (Gautam 2004: 1) by evolving forest policies and forestry institutions, and because of the proper implementation of these policies. Until 1957, the Nepalese government was also in favor of clearing forests and cutting down trees for farmland and the extraction of timber for export. In 1957, the forestry industry was nationalized, and policy makers tried to stop forest degradation. In the early years, they were not successful in their efforts, but in the late 1970s, when they involved local people in decision making and arranged community-based management, then the program was met with remarkable success (ibid).

Similarly, in 1998, the World Bank started a project in Utter Pradesh (India) for the reclamation of the land that had been degraded because of sodic soil. This project was mainly for the support of rural soil renovation and the development of infrastructure and institutions for soil reclamation. The most important step that they have taken for this project is the involvement of the poor community of the various regions of Utter Pradesh. These selforganized farmers were responsible for the management of the land and water arrangements for the land. They were also taught how to arrange their household income and so they organized their own mini banks, which entitled them to obtain loans from commercial banks.

This project was for the duration of 10 years, and at the end of the period, the overall outcomes of the project were satisfactory. The World Bank concluded that inclusive community institutions are helpful for land reclamation, and that community mobilization is necessary for the effective results of these institutions (World Bank 2008). Scherr and Yadav (1997: 4) have also recommended a secure property rights system for the long-term improvement and investment in the agricultural sector of developing countries.

2.5 Land Degradation in Pakistan

In 1984 Boffey wrote in his article of 1st January published in ‘New York Times’ that the Pakistani people would improve their diet in next 20 years. However, 15 years after his prediction, most of the nations mentioned in that article, including Pakistan, faced a food crisis. The years from 1988 to 1992 are viewed as massive flood years in Pakistan's history, the floods destroying most of its agricultural land. In 1996, Pakistan was declared among the critical zone, with degraded land amounting to thirty eight percent of the World's arable land (World Watch Institute Report 1996).

According to a report of FAO (1994: 10), land degradation in Pakistan is caused by three

different agents:

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