UPSC PRELIMS 2020: Indian Cheetah, pink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustard, have become extinct

Topic: Indian Cheetah, pink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustard, have become extinct


Topic in Syllabus: Ecology and Environment



At least three to four species of animals, such as the Indian Cheetah, pink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustard, have become extinct due to desertification in India, researchers warned at the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14).



  • Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • There are 197 parties to this convection including India.
  • The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is the financial mechanism of the UNCCD.
  • The convention awards the ‘Land for Life Award’ every year for the innovation in efforts towards a land management, in line with achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


What is Desertification?

  • Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas.
  • It is not the natural expansion of existing deserts.
  • It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.
  • It can be caused by over cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices. Such overexploitation is generally caused by economic and social pressure, ignorance, war, and drought.


Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”.

Specifically, Goal 15 of SGD states to halt and reverse land degradation.


Indian Desertification scenario

  • India has witnessed increase in the level of desertification in 26 of 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
  • More than 80 per centof the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states: Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
  • As per State of India’s Environment (SoE) 2019 report, Top three districts with highest area under desertification are Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir.


Main reasons that cause desertification in India are

  • Water erosion (10.9 per cent)
  • Vegetation degradation (8.9 per cent)
  • Wind erosion (5.5 per cent)
  • Salinity (1.1 per cent)
  • Human-made/settlements (0.7 per cent)
  • Others (2.0 per cent)