Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

A National Review of Land Degradation in Pakistan *

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of South, Southeastern, and Central Asia

A National Review of Land Degradation in Pakistan *

Article excerpt


Pakistan is positioned between 24°-37° N latitude and 61°-75.5 E longitude (Figure 1) and is bounded by the frontiers of China, India, Afghanistan and Iran. The country consists of four provinces i.e., Punjab, Sind, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and Balochistan. Pakistan has a total geographical area of 79.61 million hectares (mha) and reported area of 57.07 mha (Ahmad, 2007). The reported area is subdivided in to (a) area not available for cultivation (22.88 mha) (b) cultivated area (22.05 mha) (c) culturable waste (8.12 mha) and (d) forest area (4.02 mha). The cultivated area is further subdivided in to canal command, tubewell command, rod kohi and barani based on types of irrigation system. The fertile alluvial plains of the country are drained by the river Indus and its tributaries. The climate of the country is generally hot and dry in summer and cold and arid in winter with average annual rainfall of less than 20 inches. Salinity and waterlogging are the major problems in canal irrigated areas. Almost 72% of the population live in rural settings and are mainly engaged with agriculture and livestock rearing. Agriculture is therefore the mainstay of the majority of the population and contributes about 20% of gross domestic product (GDP). Cotton, Sugarcane, Sugar beet and tobacco are the major cash crops of the country. The food crops include cereals, fruits, vegetables, milk and eggs. The agriculture sector in the country is faced with the challenges of soil erosion, shortage of water for irrigation, insecure land tenure, improper use of inorganic fertilizers, low use of modern technology, water pollution, food insecurity, climate change, floods, desertification, land degradation, landslides and earthquakes.

Land degradation is a worldwide issue, and is of great concern in unindustrialized nations, where cultivation is the backbone of rural livelihood. According to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (MEA, 2005), land degradation has affected all continents except Antarctica. Nearly 110 countries are affected by land degradation (Amin, 2004). Land degradation has affected about one third of the land area and as much as 250 million people worldwide (Adamo and Crews-Meyer, 2006; Peng, et al., 2005). Almost 50% of rangelands have been destroyed due to soil erosion (Irshad et al., 2007). The per capita arable land may decrease to 0.15 ha from 0.25 by 2050 (Hellin, 2006). Land degradation adversely affects agronomic productivity, environment, food security and human well-being (Eswaran et al., 2001). Social and economic factors have led to deterioration in per person arable land globally (Lal, 2006). The affected countries may face food insecurity situations in the near future (Bastiaanssen and Ali, 2003).

Agriculture adds almost 21% of gross domestic product to the economy of the country. Agriculture also provides economic activities to 65.9% population in the country (Bhutto and Bazmi, 2007). The contribution of agriculture sector to export earnings is nearly 9%. The agriculture sector has not been given proper attention. Shah et al. (2011) studies showed that due to degradation, only 21.17 mha is cultivated from a total of 79.61 mha, (Table 1). Research of Shah and khan (2010) revealed that agriculture sector is not producing required results and is thus not contributing to food security. Land degradation is a socio-economic and environmental problem (Qasim et al., 2011). The information presented in the above paragraphs prompted us to review the causes and impacts of land degradation and devise some improvement measures. The paper would be helpful for combating degradation of land resources and recommending proper conservation measures to the farmers.

Causes of Land Degradation in Pakistan

Physical as well as human factors cause degradation of land resources in the country. The physical factors consist of lack of rainfall, drought, floods and landslides. Rainfall occurs in the monsoon season which is not adequate. …

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