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Nasa Earth Observatory

Graphically Speaking

Greener Pastures
China and India are leading the way in increasing ‘greening on land’, but it's not as rosy as it seems

The world is greener than it was 20 years ago. Tough to believe? Yes, despite all the deforestation and industrialisation of the 21st century, a NASA study shows that there is more green land on the planet than two decades ago. And the unlikeliest contributors to this foliage are two countries with the world’s biggest populations — India and China.

The study combats the popular notion that overpopulation in the countries leads to more deforestation and land degradation. When in reality, it states, the two together contributed to over a third of the 5.5 million sq km leaf area added per year, starting early 2000s. China alone accounts for a quarter of this increase in the green patch, and it is largely thanks to its forests (42%) and croplands (32%). But, in India, the leaf area increase is mostly from croplands (82%) with a minor contribution from forests (4.4%). Though total land area used to grow crops has not changed much since the early 2000s, these regions have increased their food production by 35-40%. Multiple cropping practices have been put in place to feed their large population, which accounts for 37% of the world’s total.

NASA pegs the greening of the planet to China’s “ambitious programmes to conserve forests”. But, it is important to remember that this study does not discount the threat of climate change. The Amazon, or lungs of the earth, has been on fire for more than a month, while the effects of global warming are only seen to be intensifying every year.

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