Land is the most vital resource of a country. It is a fixed asset and cannot be expanded to meet the needs of an increasing population. Therefore, it must be used carefully and in the best possible manner.
The total geographical area of India is 32.88 lakh sq. km.
The total land area on which crops are grown in a region is called net sown area. The net sown area and the area sown more than once together are called gross cultivated area. In India, about 47 per cent of total reporting area is under the net sown area.
States namely Punjab, Haryana, West Bangal, Uttar Pradesh, have the high proportinal share of NSA than the national average. Against this, the share of NSA is less than one half of the national average in states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. All these states suffer from physical disabilities such as undulating terrain due to hilly topography, limiting the availability of plain land and fertile soils, important for cultivation. This is evidently clear from state wise distribution of proportional share of NSA that physiographic factors play an important role in availability of net cropped area in a region.
The area under forest cover is about 68 million hectares or 22 per cent of the total area in the country. This area has increased from 40 million hectares in 1951 to 68 million hectares in 2000.
For the ecological balance the forest cover should be at least 33 per cent of the total geographical area of a country. The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Jammu & Kashmir and Tripura have relatively larger proportion of area under forest cover.
The land under the settlements, roads, mines and quarries along with barren lands are included in this category. The sandy waste land of Rajasthan, marshy land of Kutchh (Gujarat) and rugged and eroded areas of northeast and northern mountains are few examples of barren lands. About 13 per cent of the total reported area is recorded under this category. Nagaland, Manipur and Assam registered a very high percentage of area not available for cultivation.
When lands are left unused to regain their lost fertility in a natural way is called fallow land. On the basis of usability criteria follow lands can be divided into two groups current and old. Current fallow is the land in which no crop is raised during the current year. Old fallow land remain unused for a period of one or more years but not exceeding 5 years. This is due to low investment capacity of numerous small and marginal farmers in advanced technology, lack of awareness, loss of fertility of soil, inadequacy of rainfall, lacking in irrigational facility, etc.
The fallow land occupy about 7.5 per cent of the total reported area. The states of Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have a high percentage of area under fallow land. It is to be noted here that old fallow land may not be economically important but from ecological point of view fallow land is important category of land.
It is the land in which crops were raised for some period of time but has not been cultivated for the last five years due to certain deficiencies such as alkalinity and salinity in the soils. Such cultivable waste are locally known as reh, bhur, usar, and khola in the some part of North India. Maghalaya, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan have a very high share of cultivable waste land in total land use in respective states.
Not withstanding the highest live stock population in the world, India has only less than 4 per cent of the country under pastures and grazing lands. The states of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan have high above 5% of area under this category.