Full text: Special UNISPACE III volume

International Archives of Photogrammetiy and Remote Sensing. Voi. XXXII Part 7C2, UNISPACE III. Vienna. 1999 
“Resource Mapping from Space” 
9:00 am -12:00 pm, 22 July 1999, VIC Room B 
Vienna, Austria 
National Remote Sensing Agency 
(Dept, of Space, Govt, of India) 
E-mail: dprao@hdl .vsnl.net.in 
director@nrsa. gov. in 
KEYWORDS: Sustainable development, sustainability, integrated assessment, impact assessment, risk analysis. 
The degradation of limited arable land by various processes, namely, soil erosion by water and wind, salinization and / alkalinization, 
waterlogging, sliifting cultivatioa mining, etc. due to over-exploitation has resulted in the significant decrease in the per capita arable 
land. As against per capita arable land of 0.3 ha in 1990, if the soil degradation continues, this will drop to 0.15 ha by the year 2050. 
The situation is further compounded by ever increasing population particularly in the developing world. The world’s population which 
was 1 billion in the year 1800, is likely to touch 6.1 billion by the turn of 20th Century. In order to meet the growing demand for food, 
fuel and fodder of ever increasing population, available natural resources need to be utilized optimally based on their potentials and 
limitations wliile maintaining the ecological balance. Information on the nature, extent, spatial distribution of various natural resources 
and the temporal behavior of degraded lands, is a pre-requisite to achieve the goals of sustainable development. With the advantage of 
providing synoptic coverage of a fairly large area at regular intervals and coupled with the advancements made in the computer-aided 
digital analysis, space-borne multi-spectral measurements made by earth observation satellites offer an immense potential for 
generating reliable, timely and cost-effective information on various natural resources, viz., minerals, soils, groimdwater, surface water, 
forest cover, degraded lands, marine resources, etc. With the currently available satellite data, regional, macro and micro-level 
information on natural resources and environment have become operational. Integration of such information with other ancillary 
information like slope, aspect, rainfall, socio-economic data, peoples’ needs in a Geograplüc Information System (GIS) domain enable 
prescribing the most appropriate action plan for sustainable development of land and water resources. Advancements in weather 
forecasting and telecommunication further help in effective implementation of action plans. After implementation of action plans, the 
progress made in the direction of sustainable development could be monitored using multi-temporal space-borne multi-spectral data. 
The article provides an overv iew of the magnitude of land degradation, concept of sustainable development and sustainability, identifies 
sustainability indices, and issues related to sustainable development of land and water resources. A few case studies liighlighting the 
success stories as well as problems encountered are cited. In addition, an attempt has also been made to project the future scenario of 
the role of space technology in sustainable development vis-à-vis likely developments in the sensor technology, data processing and 
interpretation/analysis approaches. 
Due to ever increasing pressure of population on land, the per capita 
arable land has been dwindling. In the year 1986, the world-wide 
cropped area was 1.5 billion ha which was supporting the total 
world population of about 5 billion. The per capita arable land in 
1986, thus works out to be 0.3 ha. With the increasing population 
pressure it has been progressively declining. By the year 2000, the 
per capita arable land area will decline to 0.23 ha. and to 0.15 ha by 
2050 (Lai and Pierce, 1991). The change in per capita grain 
production declined from +13 per cent per decade in the 1950s to -2 
per cent per decade in the 1980s and for the 1990s it is projected to 
be -7 per cent (Brown et al. 1990). 
The problem of low land-to-people ratio is further compounded by 
land degradation by way of accelerated soil erosion by water and 
wind, salinization and / alkalinization, waterlogging, compaction ; 
mining and depletion of organic matter. Exploitation, 
mismanagement and neglect can ruin the fragile natural resources 
and become threat to human survival. Archaeological evidence, in 
fact, lias revealed that land degradation was responsible for 
extinction of the Harappan civilization in Western India. 
Mesopotamia in Western Asia mid the Mayan culture in Central 
America (Olson, 1981). In India, the deterioration of erstwhile forest 
ecosystem of Cherapunji, Meghalaya state of North-eastern India is 
an example of the devastating effects of overexploitation of natural 
resources. Meeting food and fiber demands in the next century will 
require higher productivity levels for land now in production, the

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