This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

India is Growing People and Losing Agricultural Land

India is on track to soon surpass China as the world's most populous country. I have previously commented on the issue of China feeding itself, but there is less discussion about India's progress on that score. What we do know, however, is that India is losing, rather than gaining, agricultural land even as its population grows. We know that from some excellent analysis of satellite imagery undertaken by Karen Seto at Yale University in a project funded by NASA. She has just posted key results online.
Our analysis uncovers some key trends in agricultural land loss. First, during 2001 – 2010, India lost 0.7 million hectares (roughly five times the size of Delhi) of its agricultural land to urban expansion. Second, agricultural land loss is occurring around smaller cities more than around bigger cities. Third, the northeastern states experienced the least amount of agricultural land loss compared to other states (Fig 2).

This is a pattern that is repeated all over the globe. Historically, cities have been located close to good agricultural land so that the urban population could be fed. But as cities grow and sprawl the close by farmland becomes more "valuable"--in the short term at least--for housing people than for growing their food. Is that sustainable? 

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