Land Use Pattern - Thought Chakra

Land Use Pattern – UPSC Notes – Indian Geography

The arrangement or layout of land utilization is referred to as the “Land Use Pattern.”

Land use is influenced by various factors such as relief features, climate, soil, population density, technical, and socio-economic factors.

Spatial and temporal differences in land utilization occur due to the ongoing interaction between physical and human factors.

India encompasses a total geographical area of approximately 328.73 million hectares, though statistics regarding land utilization are accessible for about 305.90 million hectares.

The important types of land use in the country are as follows:

Net Sown Area(NSA)

  • Refers to the cropped area during the considered year.
  • It’s significant for agricultural production.
  • Accounts for 06% of India’s total reporting area, which is 141.58 million hectares, compared to the world average of 32%.
  • Per capita cultivated land has decreased from 0.53 ha in 1951 to 0.11 ha in 2011-12, highlighting the need for population control.
  • Rajasthan has the largest NSA of 18.35 million ha, approximately 12.96% of India’s total reporting NSA, followed by Maharashtra.
  • Punjab and Haryana have some of the highest proportions of NSA to total area, at 82.6 and 80.5 respectively.
  • Factors contributing to high proportion of cultivated area:
    • Gentle slope of land
    • Fertile alluvial and black soils
    • Favorable climate
    • Excellent irrigation facilities
  • Factors leading to lower NSA in mountainous regions and drier tracts:
    • Rugged topography
    • Unfavorable climate
    • Infertile soils

Area sown more than once

The area utilized for growing multiple crops in a single year is termed multiple cropping area.

  • Total cropped area rose from 185.34 million ha in 2000-01 to 198.97 million ha in 2010-11.
  • Area sown more than once increased from 44 million ha in 2000-01 to 57.39 million ha in 2010-11, showing a net increase of over 13 million ha in a decade.
  • This category includes land with rich fertile soils and regular water supply.
  • It’s significant because nearly all arable land is already under cultivation, so increasing agricultural production relies on enhancing cropping intensity.
  • Cropping Intensity is calculated as Gross Cropped Area divided by Net Sown Area multiplied by 100.
  • Regions like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and coastal areas have a significant percentage of land under this category.

Forest Area

This category encompasses all land designated either as forest by legal decree or managed as such, regardless of ownership (state or private) or condition (wooded or potentially forested).

  • Crop cultivation and grazing activities within forests, as well as open areas for grazing within forested regions, are considered part of the forest area.
  • Forests now cover approximately 23% of the reported area, marking a significant improvement from 14% in 1950-51.
  • As per the National Forest Policy of 1952, the forest reporting area should constitute 3% of the total land.
  • States like Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and the Andaman Nicobar islands report more forested area due to heavy rainfall and relief features.
  • Conversely, states such as Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Haryana, Punjab, and Goa have less forested area.

Land not available for cultivation

This category comprises two types of land:

  1. Land utilized for non-agricultural purposes.
  2. Barren and uncultivable waste.
  • Land used for non-agricultural purposes includes areas occupied by villages, towns, roads, railways, and bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, canals, tanks, and ponds.
  • Barren land encompasses all unproductive and uncultivated terrain found in mountainous regions, hillslopes, deserts, and rocky areas. These areas are typically not suitable for cultivation due to high input costs and low potential returns.
  • The non-cultivable land area increased from 41.48 million ha in 2000-01 to 43.56 million ha in 2010-11, amounting to 14% of the total reported area in 2010-11.
  • Andhra Pradesh holds the largest share of land in this category, followed by Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
  • Conversely, states such as Dadra and Haveli, Chandigarh, Andaman and Nicobar, and Sikkim have less land in this category.

Permanent pastures and other grazing lands

A total area of 10.3 million ha is allocated to permanent pastures and other grazing lands, constituting approximately 4% of the country’s total reporting area.

  • However, the current area designated for pastures and grazing lands is deemed insufficient considering the large population of livestock in the country.
  • In Himachal Pradesh, approximately one-third of the reporting area is designated as pastures.
  • The proportion ranges from 4-10% in states like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Odisha.
  • In contrast, in the remaining parts of the country, this proportion is less than 3%.

Land under miscellaneous tree crops and groves

This category encompasses all cultivable land not included in the Net Sown Area (NSA) but utilized for some form of agricultural activity.

  • It includes land devoted to casuarina trees, thatching grass, bamboo, bushes, and other groves for fuel, which are not categorized as orchards.
  • The land in this category has seen a significant decrease, declining from 6.97% in 1950-51, to just 1.41% in 1970-71, and further to 1% in 2010-11.
  • Odisha holds the largest area under this category, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Tamil Nadu.

Cultivable waste

This category refers to land that is suitable for cultivation but remains uncultivated due to various constraints.

  • Constraints may include lack of water, salinity, alkalinity of soil, soil erosion, water logging, etc.
  • Regions like Reh, Usar, Bhur, and Khola tracts in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana, along with other parts of the country, were previously used for agriculture but had to be abandoned due to soil deficiencies resulting from faulty agricultural practices.
  • In 2010-11, the cultivable waste land was estimated to be approximately 5% of the total area.
  • There has been a decline in wasteland since independence, attributed to land reclamation schemes launched in India.
  • States with significant cultivable waste land include Gujarat (13.6%), Madhya Pradesh (10.2%), Uttar Pradesh (6.93%), and Maharashtra (6.83%).
  • While this land can be brought under cultivation with effort, it’s suggested that, for the long-term conservation and maintenance of ecological balance, this land should be devoted to afforestation rather than crop farming.

Fallow lands

This category encompasses land previously used for cultivation but currently lying temporarily fallow.

  • It comprises two types:
    • Current fallow
    • Fallow other than current fallow
  • Current fallow refers to land left fallow for one year, while fallow other than current fallow includes land left fallow for 2-5 years.
  • In 2010-11, current fallow land accounted for 5% of the reported area, while fallow other than current fallow constituted 3%.
  • The largest area of fallow other than current fallow is in Rajasthan, covering 1.7 ha, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • Andhra Pradesh has the largest area under current fallow.

Facts and data analysis

Spatial and temporal changes in land use patterns are highly significant in India. These changes have been radical and widespread across the country, with particularly substantial shifts observed in agricultural land use within regions influenced by the green revolution.

Land-use change constitutes nearly 25% of total global emissions and can significantly impact CO2 atmospheric concentration, thereby contributing to global climate change.

Land degradation affects 3.2 billion people worldwide, resulting in the loss of ecosystem services such as forests, agriculture, grasslands, and tourism, amounting to $10.6 trillion annually.

An analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that by 2050, over 500 million hectares of new agricultural land will be required to meet global food demand.

According to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), over 70% of all natural, ice-free land is affected by human use, a figure projected to increase to 90% by 2050.

Reasons for the change

Population Growth – In India, the rapidly growing population and consequent high pressure on existing resources negatively impact land resources. Cities are expanding and becoming urbanized well beyond their formal limits.

Land Encroachment and extensive use of forest resources – Increasing demands for food and shelter drive expansion through encroachment into uncultivated land areas, forests, shrubs, and wetlands. The IPCC report on climate change and land highlights agricultural land for food, animal feed, and fiber as driving forces behind land-use change.

Over Grazing – Farmers are abandoning cultivated land for grazing purposes, leading to a decline in soil fertility.

Thus, there are two types of land-use changedirect anthropogenic changes including deforestation, reforestation, afforestation, agriculture, and urbanization, and indirect changes such as climate change or alterations in CO2 concentration leading to changes in vegetation and land use patterns.

Solutions / Way Forward

Smart Forest and Land Management – Enhanced cropland management, livestock management, agroforestry, and reduced post-harvest losses are crucial for land restoration. Additionally, improving land grazing by animals and forest fire management is imperative.

Responsible Land Governance – Key to better land-use adaptation and improving livelihoods for many small-scale farmers. It also facilitates ecosystem restoration and biodiversity protection.

India, as a member of UNCCD, has the opportunity to adopt ambitious resolutions on land-use pattern change and landholdings.

There is an urgent need to slow down and reverse land-use change. The land-use sector plays a critical role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2°C.


The land use pattern in India is shaped by a combination of physical and human factors. Key physical factors influencing this pattern include topography, soil, climate, minerals, and water availability. Meanwhile, population and technology play significant roles as human factors in determining land use.

Given that land serves as a vital resource supporting natural vegetation, wildlife, transportation, and economic activities, it is imperative to plan and utilize it judiciously. This entails careful consideration of both the physical and human factors involved.

FAQs on Land Use Pattern

How much land does India use for agriculture?

India utilizes approximately 60% of its total geographical area for agriculture. This includes land under cultivation, permanent pastures, and other grazing lands.

Explain Land Use Pattern in India and Why Has the Land Under Forest Not Increased Much Since 1960-61?

The land use pattern in India is diverse and influenced by various factors such as relief features, climate, soil, population density, and socio-economic factors. However, the land under forest has not increased significantly since 1960-61 due to factors such as population pressure, urbanization, industrialization, agricultural expansion, and policies favoring economic development over environmental conservation.

What are the Physical Factors that determine the Land Use Pattern in India?

The land use pattern in India is determined by several physical factors including relief features, climate, soil, and availability of water. Relief features such as mountains, plateaus, and plains influence the suitability of land for various purposes. Climate, including temperature, rainfall, and humidity, affects crop suitability and productivity. Soil characteristics such as fertility, texture, and drainage capacity also play a significant role in determining land use. Availability of water resources, including rivers, lakes, and groundwater, influences irrigation and agricultural practices.

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