Wastelands are those lands where the production of biomass is less than its optimum productivity.
These waste lands are economically unproductive and ecological unstable. Here the life supporting systems are under tremendous pressure. The increasing deterioration of land due to soil erosion, injudicious use of chemical fertilizers, water logging, salinity, shifting cultivation etc. are causing concern. The National Remote Sensing Agency, Department of Space, Hyderabad, on the basis of satellite pictures has reported 75.5 million hectare of land as wasteland.
i. To address the problems of land degradation, the government had initiated the wastelands development programme in 1985. The major objectives of the programmes are: (a) Checking land degradation (b) Putting wastelands to sustainable use (c) increase biomass availability specially fuelwood and fodder and (d) restore ecological balance. In order to give necessary boost to the development of non-forest wastelands, the government has created the Department of Wastelands Development in July 1992 and positioned it in the Ministry of Rural Development. The Ministry of Rural Development has asked the states to set up their own wastelands development boards which would identify wastelands, chalk out projects and render assistance to the NGOS. Some states have launched innovative programmes for wasteland development. For instance, under the Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Development Mission, Madhya Pradesh government launched a programme for proper and sustainable management of water and soil resources with people’s participation. The government departments supplied key inputs but the entire project has been in the hands of the villagers themselves. The National Wasteland Development Board has classified wastelands into cultural and unculturable wastelands. The cultural wastelands are those lands which have the potential for the development of vegetative cover but these remain unused for various reasons. The unculturable wastelands are those lands which cannot be developed for vegetable cover. However the thrust areas for the Development of wasteland Development Identification of problems for different categories of non-forest wastelands/degraded lands.
ii. Evolving appropriate package of technology an institutional base for implementation and policy support.
iii. Promoting awareness of an integrated and inter-dependent land management system to meet various-sectoral needs from the upgraded non-forest wastelands.
iv. Ensuring people participation at levels.
v. Identifying models of development which do not depend much on capital intensive inputs.
vi. Involving appropriate agencies like the NGOS in the programme.
vii. Mobilisation of technological and financial assistance even from international source for accelerating the process of developing wastelands.