ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Need to Overhaul Wasteland Classification Systems in India

The term “wastelands” originates from land governance systems in the colonial period, and it has been criticised in academia and conservation for being ecologically flawed. Although wastelands have been redefined in the post-independence period, there has been little change in the assumption that they were unproductive, degraded, and in need of external intervention for improvement. The eradication of the term “waste” and a thorough revision of the wastelands atlas, which can then meaningfully address national and global targets of sustainable development, are argued for here. This article weaves together historical contexts around wastelands and proposes a new approach for their mapping.


The United Nations has declared the third decade of the 21st century (2021 to 2030) as a “decade of ecosystem restoration.” The definition glossary of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN 2021) defines “degradation” as “reduction or loss of biological or economic productivity of the land.” In India, land is a vital natural resource for rural livelihoods and land degradation threatens the well-being of millions of people. There is a need to identify degraded lands and plan for ecological restoration for ensuring sustainable development.

The onus of collecting information on the status of land lies with the Department of Land Resources (DoLR) under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). The vision of the department is

to develop appropriate integrated land information management system, which will inter alia improve real-time information on land, optimise use of land resources and assist in policy/planning. (DoLR 2021)

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Updated On : 2nd Oct, 2021
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