Annual land use and land cover atlas of India

News Excerpt:

The National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad has published a comprehensive assessment of annual land use and land cover.

More about the Annual Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) Atlas of India:

  • The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad has been undertaking annual assessment of LULC for the country under Natural Resources Census (NRC) Programme of ISRO Since 2005.

Importance of Land Use and Land Cover assessment:

  • Land use and land cover monitoring is the essential practice of observing, assessing and recording the transformations that occur on Earth's surface. 
  • This systematic examination of how the land is utilized and its associated characteristics offers invaluable insights into the evolving dynamics of our environment.
  • From urban development to agricultural expansion and natural resource management, understanding these changes is pivotal for informed decision-making, sustainable planning and effective environmental conservation.

Key highlights of the LULC atlas:

  • India’s built-up area has steadily increased over the past 17 years from 2005-06 to 2022-23, expanding by almost 2.5 million hectares.
    • The trend highlighted the rapid pace of urbanisation and infrastructure development across the country during this period.
    • Large part of the increase was caused by diversion of agricultural land.
      • A substantial percentage of built-up area expansion originated from agricultural land covers, which includes 6.3% of double / triple / annual crop, 5.3% of kharif crop, 3.1% of rabi crop, 2.9% of plantation and 5.8% of fallow land.
    • The term ‘built-up area’ refers to an area with buildings (roofed structures), paved surfaces (roads, parking lots), commercial and industrial sites (ports, landfills, quarries, runways) and urban green areas (parks, gardens).
    • The built-up land showed a modest increase with an overall growth of around 31% during the period from 2005-06 and 2022-23.
  • During this period, around 35% of built up area has been added, with an average increase of around 2.4% annually from land cover, which includes wasteland and agricultural land cover.
    • Wasteland, which includes degraded and unproductive land, contributed significantly (12.3%) to built-up area expansion.
  • The trends of built-up area for rapidly growing states seem to be quite stable, with a slight rise in area in 17 years. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh showed a distinct increase in the built-up area.

Capital expenditure on infrastructure:

  • According to the Reserve Bank of India, the state and union capital expenditures increased significantly from  ₹1.28 lakh crore in FY 2005-06 to ₹11.92 lakh crore in FY 2022-23. 
  • The highest rate of growth (76.34%) in capital expenditures occurred during FY 2019-20 and FY 2022-23.
  • New roadways, highways, railway lines and other infrastructure development projects are clear indicators of this progress. 
    • Between 2005 and 2023, the length of national highways increased in all the five states: Gujarat (175%), Karnataka (109%), Andhra Pradesh (94%), Madhya Pradesh (75%) and West Bengal (58%). 
    • National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has recently approved the construction of the 34-km Indore Western Bypass (also known as the Western Ring Road). 

Impact of infrastructure development on land use:

  • While such infrastructural development is important, these come at the cost of agricultural land, which is the source of livelihood for farmers. 
  • After acquisition of land for infrastructure the farmers are not adequately compensated as shown by the recent protests by farmers against poor compensation for such development projects.
    • In Gujarat the farmers had protested against the development of NH-56 from Vapi to Shamlaji. 
    • In Feb 2024, the farmers in Madhya Pradesh too came out in protest against the land acquisition for Indore’s Western Ring Road and the Indore-Budhni rail link. 
  • In this context, the findings on land cover and use in the atlas are very relevant for the formulation of development projects including infrastructural projects.


Annual land use and land cover atlas will serve as a compass, guiding our understanding of land resources and facilitating sustainable development practices. Hopefully the atlas will act as a catalyst for informed decision-making by the policy makers.

National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC):

  • National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) at Hyderabad has been converted into a full-fledged centre of ISRO since September 1, 2008. 
  • Earlier, NRSC was an autonomous body called National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) under the Department of Space (DOS).
  • Mandate: 
    • It is responsible for remote sensing satellite data acquisition and processing, data dissemination, aerial remote sensing and decision support for disaster management.
    • NRSC Ground station at Shadnagar, Hyderabad acquires Earth Observation data from Indian remote-sensing satellites as well as from different foreign satellites. 

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