Member countries develop methodology for land degradation Assessment

Workshop participants with Basanta Shrestha, Director for Strategic Cooperation, ICIMOD  and M.J.H Jabed, Director for Agriculture and Rural Development, SAARC Secretariat

Land degradation is common across the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, but surrounding countries lack proper documentation and modelling to properly assess the situation. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is collaborating with Agriculture Centre and Forestry Centre under South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to enable members in building a methodology that looks into evaluating land degradation in the HKH region and SAARC countries. 

Land management officials presented their results based on geospatial methodology developed linking collected ground data, during a two day “Geospatial Technology for Assessment and Mapping of Land Degradation in SAARC Countries” conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, 9 to 10 September 2015.

During the inaugural session of the workshop, Basanta Shrestha, ICIMOD’s Director for Strategic Cooperation said ICIMOD and SAARC collaborates to feed science based research into development programmes. “ICIMOD deals with research and development that focuses on mountain regions. SAARC, as a regional government body, can help to feed the research outcome into policy in the region”, Basanta Shrestha said. 

 M J H Jabed, Director, Agriculture, Rural Development and SAARC Development Fund, SAARC Secretariat, Nepal said, “Geospatial technology is becoming increasingly relevant in the region as our member countries are all agro-based and are riddled with the impact of climate change, and a partnership with ICIMOD can help in realising SAARC’s mandate.”

Representatives from each country who presented their work to ICIMOD experts for feedback also pointed out potential benefits from the developed methodology. Tseten Dorji, Soil survey and land evaluation officer, National Soil Service Centre, Department of Agriculture, Bhutan said lack of proper documentation and data have hampered planning for soil conservation. “We have worked on a model to assess soil erosion and land degradations. We hope that our model will help with proper documentation and better planning for soil conservation”.

“Our case study in the Purna Valley River basin in India looks at mapping land degradation with remote sensing and ground data. In this workshop, we will looked at how this method can be upscale to other river basin studies”. G P Obi Reddy, Principal Scientist, Division of Remote Sensing Applications National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning, India. 

Nepal’s methodology involve assessing land degradation in terms of soil and nutrient loss in the Kamala river watershed in Shindhuli district. Senior Scientist Kamal Sah, from Nepal’s Soil Science Division in Nepal Agriculture Research Council said that methodology will help to assess extent of soil erosion caused by flood and landslide in the area. 

Similarly, in Bangladesh, Md Moqbul Hossain, Project Director, Soil Resource Development Institute in Dhaka is leading a team of expert to study factors that cause soil erosion including agricultural practices, soil texture, rainfall layers and slope maps. “The methodology will be useful in studying soil erosion, its extent and degree”, He said.  

These methodologies developed are a result of an inception meeting held in December 2013 at ICIMOD in Nepal to develop a broad framework for pilot site selection and planning field data collection. Respective country focal agencies were identified and a stakeholder meeting took place in Bhutan in December 2014 followed by field work for data collection and analysis in respective countries. 

A joint publication will be brought out based on the developed methodologies and results for the decimation and implementation.