Satellite image showcases centuries of desertification in India

The desert surrounding the Indian city of Bikaner was once green and lush. Today, the city is surrounded by sand dunes. Photo by ESA/Copernicus Sentinel

June 19 (UPI) — A new image from the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite showcases the extreme aridity of India’s Thar Desert.

Geologic and archaeological analysis suggests the region, which encompasses more than 123,000 square miles in India and Pakistan, was once green and lush. Centuries of farms have depleted water resources and taxed the soil, slowly drying out the land.

Today, the region is dotted by dunes. The false-color image features the city of Bikaner. Sand dunes and irrigation-supported farms surround the city.

Life is tough for farmers in the region. Desertification spreads as dry desert sands are blown by winds onto more fertile nearby acreage, degrading the soil.

Though irrigation has been used to further develop agricultural lands, India’s government has also spearheaded several irrigated planting projects in order to stave off desertification and return some of the acreage to its previous vegetated state.


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