Man along with all the plants and animals has been living on the surface of this earth for years together. He has been using the soil, water-bodies, forests, grasslands, animals, minerals etc. all related with land in various ways for his living.
Man gets the primary needs of living like food, clothing and shelter from the land itself. All human settlements, roads, agriculture, grazing of domestic animals, establishment of industries etc. are done on land. So, land is our most important primary natural wealth.
Land or the surface of the earth is not alike everywhere. Natural resources are also not equally available everywhere on the land surface. Man, too, does not utilize land equally at all times. Land has been being used differently at different times with the growth of civilization. The primitive man, when he was living in caves of hills, did not know anything about agriculture.
Almost the entire land surface was covered with forests. Man, in those bygone days, used to earn his living by collecting fruits and roots from the forests and by hunting birds and animals. He began to live at one place permanently when he gradually became intelligent and knew agriculture. So, human settlements, roads, and various institutions were set up.
Therefore, land was mainly used for forests, pastures, farming, human settlements and such other useful purposes.
Type of Lands:
India is one of the largest countries of the world. It ranks seventh in respect of size, and second in respect of population. The total land area of India is 32 lakh 87 thousand square kilometers. Three major types of lands are found in India in respect of its relief, such as, mountains, plateaus and plains. About 29% of our total land areas are mountains, 28% plateaus and 43% plains.
The mountains include the high Himalayan mountains in the north, the Aravalli ranges and the Western Ghats in the west, the Vindhyas and the Sapura range at the centre, the Eastern Ghats in the east, the Agro, Khaki and Jacinta range in the north east. The plateaus include the Chhotnagpur Plateau, the Amarkantaka, Malawi, Karnataka and the Deccan plateaus. The plains include the Gang etic plains in the north, the Brahmaputra valley, the east and the west coastal plains and the flood plains of different river valleys of India.
About 80% of the total land area of India is utilized by man. This land utilisation of man is influenced by the relief, climate, soil as well as man’s social and economic conditions.
According to use, lands in India are utilized as forest-lands, pasture and grazing lands, agricultural or farm lands, settlement and other such purposes.
India was covered with dense forests in primitive ages. More and more lands were needed for agriculture, settlement industry, roads etc. with the growth of population. So man utilized land by cutting down and cleaning the forests in order to fulfill his growing needs. Now only about 22% of the total land area of our country is covered with forests.
The National Forest Policy formulated in the year 1952 proclaims that about 33% of the country’s total land area should be covered with forests in order to maintain ecological balance in our environment. It will control the country’s climate and the country will be saved to a great extent from the ravages of flood, drought and cyclones. Therefore, there should be forests in about 60% of lands in hilly areas and 20% of lands in the plains.
According to law, these forests are of three categories; such as, reserved forests, protected forests and unclassified forests. Valuable forests are taken as the reserved forests, for which about half of the total lands under forests have been conserved. Man gets many useful forest products from the forests.
Forests play vital role in checking soil erosion, controlling flood, increasing the amount of rainfall and creating favourable conditions in the local climate. That is why forests are an important natural wealth of the country.
Forests of India are being destroyed owing to various natural as well as man-made causes. So the extent of forests is gradually diminishing.
In some hilly areas of the country, the Advises adopt shifting cultivation by clearing forests. Such type of farming is known as “pod” on “tail” cultivation in Orissa. At some places forests are cut down to raise farm lands, settlements, industries, roads etc. Cattle also treat forests as their grazing ground thereby the seedlings and finally the forests are destroyed.
Only 2% of the total forest land of the world is in India. But 15% of the total world population and 13% of the total cattle population depend on forests. It is known as biotic pressure. Such enormous pressure is an important reason of deforestation. Besides, floods, cyclones and land erosion etc. also diminish the forest areas of our country.
Various projects like afforestation, social forestry, farm forestry etc. are being worked out in order to increase the forest area and efforts are being made to bring more land under forests. Artificial forests are being raised on waste lands in village and town areas under the social forestry scheme.
Plantations are likewise in progress on bunds and plots dividing boundaries under the farm forestry scheme. By means of afforestation, the destroyed forests of hills, mountains and plateaus are being developed and thereby the extent and density of forests are increasing.
Pastures and Grazing Lands:
There are pastures and grazing lands of about 4% of the total land area of India. These are mainly seen in hilly areas. We don’t have any definite grassland area. So, pastures are almost mingled with the forests of hilly areas and dwindled forests of the foot hills.
In the past, there were some definite grazing lands in each village of India. But it is almost non-existent, so to say. These are being used for human settlement and such other related purposes. Now, pastures and grazing lands are seen mainly in the foot hills of the Himalayan Mountains, the Eastern and the Western Ghats and the north-eastern mountain areas.
It has been very much necessary to grow more food by adopting farming on more and more lands owing to the growth of population and for want of rains for about eight months a year as a result of which it is not possible to spare definite land areas for grazing purposes. Himachal Pradesh has the maximum land under pastures and grazing lands in India.
Land for Agriculture or Farm Lands:
India is primarily an agricultural country. About 55% of the total land areas are used for growing food-crops, vegetables, cash crops and fruit. Food-crops are grown on about 45% of land out of the total 55% under cultivation. Vegetables and fruit are grown on the rest of the lands and some lands are left without any cultivation occasionally.
India has more farm lands according to its land area as compared with the other countries of the world; but it is strange that the agricultural products are less. Plains, river-valleys, flood-plains and delta areas are mostly used for agriculture. Very limited farming is done on the plateaus and mountain-slopes. Shifting cultivation or pod cultivation is carried on by clearing the forest areas.
Only paddy is cultivated on about three-fourths of the total land under food-crop cultivation, as rice is the staple food of the people in most parts of India. Wheat is grown on less amount of land than this; the area of farm lands is increasing year after year as more people depend on agriculture. The area of land under food-crop production in 1951 has by now increased by one and a half times; but the per capita holding of arable land has been decreasing gradually because of rapid growth of population.
Land under human settlement etc.:
About 19% of the total lands in India are being used for settlement of villages, towns, roads and rail-roads, airports, factories and for educational, health and administrative organizations. As per 1981 census, there were 3,949 towns, 557, 137 villages having human settlements and 48,087 villages having no human settlement.
A major portion of lands is also being used in construction of roads and rail-roads for communication among those towns and villages. Some lands are also being utilized for establishing industrial organizations, and setting up schools, colleges, universities, dispensaries and various offices.