Land is a precious resource, since it is put to diverse use by man. India with a land area of 32,88,000 km2 which is about 2.4% of the world supports 15% of the world's population. The per capita land resource available now in India is less than 0.4 hectares, in comparison to more than 0.9 hectare in China. About 44% of our land is used for agriculture, 23% is covered with forests, 4% is used for pastures and grazing fields, 8% for housing, agroforestry, industrial areas, roads and so on. The 14% land is barren and about 8% is used for miscellaneous purposes. The rapid increase of urbanisation and migration of population to towns and cities has created many problems. All this has led to the utilization of agricultural land for housing construction, industries etc.
The rational use of land resource is possible by adopting and integrated land-use policy which involves prevention of land misuse and reclamation of degraded and under-utilised land, wastelands, fallows, etc. Reclamation of abandoned mines and brick kilns may yield some much required land. Fertile agricultural land should not be sacrificed for non-agricultural purposes such as road building, development of industries or construction of water reservoirs. Urban areas should not be developed on agricultural lands. Wastelands are lands which are unproductive unfit for cultivation grazing and other economic uses due to rough terrain and eroded soils. The lands which are water-logged and saline are also termed as waste lands.
The geomorphic processes become active in the absence of land management practices. As a result, these processes erode and transport soil layers making those lands infertile, stony and useless.
The deforestation leads to soil erosion and the eroded soils exhibit droughtly tendency. Further, the falling trees aggravate the lowering of water table and dry conditions. The loss of fertility followed by erosion also leads to the transformation of marginal forest lands into wastelands.
Wastelands are broadly categorized under two groups :
(i) Barren and Uncultivable Wasteland. It includes lands which cannot be brought under cultivation or economic use except at a very high cost, whether they exist as isolated pockets or within cultivated holdings. They are mostly lands such as hilly slopes, rocky exposures, stony or leached or gully land and sandy deserts.
(ii) Cultivable Wasteland. These lands are cultivable but not cultivated for more than five years. It comprises all lands available for cultivation, but not taken up for cultivation. Next to 'fallow' lands, cultivable wastends are important for agricultural purposes because they can be reclaimed through conservational practices or cultivation or grazing or agro-forestry.
Maximum wasteland areas in our country lie in Rajasthan followed by M.P. and Andhra Pradesh. The major anthropogenic activities leading to wasteland formation are deforestation, overgrazing, mining and eroneous agricultural practices.