Land Use


Out of the total geographical area (328 million hectares), land utilisation statistics are available for 305 million hectares only. The balance 23 million hectares remains unsurveyed and inaccessible.

The significant features of land utilisation are –

  • (a) high percentage of area suitable for cultivation;
  • (b) limited scope for further extension of cultivation;
  • (c) small area under pastures despite a large bovine population.

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Presently, a little more than 40 million hectares of land is not available for cultivation. Area under this category has shown a decline from 50.7 million hectares in 1960-61 to 40.8 million hectares in 1990-91. There has been a marginal decline in fallow land from 9.9% in 1950-51 to 7.5% in 1990-91.

Cultivable wastelands also witnessed an appreciable decline of 34% between 1950-51 and 1990-91.

During 1950-51 and 1990-91, the net sown area has witnessed notable increase of about 20%. This area in 1950-51 was 118.7 million hectares which increased to 142.4 million hectares in 1990-91. Only 14% of the net sown area or 41.7 million hectares produced two or more crops in 90-91.

Surprisingly, only 5% of the land is under permanent pastures and grazing in a country with the largest bovine population of the world.

Land under non-agricultural use has increased with the accelerated growth in economy. The process of industrialisation and urbanisation demands more land under roads, railways, airports, human settlements and industries not excluding huge multi-purpose dams.

Essentially, on the limited total area all the cultural uses of land must be accommodated. Obviously, it can be realised mainly at the cost of land under agriculture. In 1950-51, the total area under non-agricultural use was 9.3 million hectares which increased to 21.2 million hectares in 1990-91.

Contrary to general belief, the percentage of land under forest is one of the lowest in the world. Forests occupy not more than 22% of the total geographical area of the country, while the world average is 30%. According to land use statistics, area under forests has increased from 40 million hectares in 1950-51 to 68 million hectares in 1990-91. It is much below the desired national goal of one third of the total area.

Thus, land use is a dynamic process. It changes over time due to a number of factors, including increasing population, changes in cropping system and technology.
As the various sectors of the economy develop, there may be a shift in the pattern of land use.
However, the bulk of the land continues to be used for raising crops.
With unabated population growth, the pressure of population on arable land is bound to grow. Indeed, it should be a matter of great national concern.

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Bibliography : NIOS Geography Book

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