Afforestation for Reclaiming Degraded Village Common Land: A Case Study

Afforestation for Reclaiming Degraded Village Common Land: A Case Study


In India, population growth and agriculture put a strain on natural resources, often resulting in "wastelands" where the soil is no longer productive - often either affected by either salt or alkilinity. Using soil amendments to restore these lands to productivity can be cost-prohibitive for the small villages that own these lands. Afforestation is one possible method for restoring the health of these in a cost-effective and scalable way. 

research goals & methods

In 1986, the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) planted trees on 8 ha of wasteland in the state of Haryana with the primary objective of restoring the soil and the secondary objective of providing fodder, fuelwood, and employment. Twelve species were planted and measured at 5.5 and 13.5 years and biomass measures were calculated. Soil samples were taken and measured for pH, electrical conductivity, organic carbon, total nitrogen, and available phosphorus. Other measurements included groundwater testing, grass productivity, and employment generation. 

conclusions & takeaways

The study found that only five of the twelve originally planted species survived to the age of 13.5 years. However, all measurements of soil health found improvements, including a reduction in pH and increases in organic carbon and phosphorus. The salinity of neighboring fields also decreased.
The potential for agriculture and thus economic value of the land and neighboring land increased, fodder and fuelwood production on the land increased, and finally the habitat value of the land for wildlife has increased.


Pal R. Afforestation for reclaiming degraded village common land: a case study. Biomass and Bioenergy. 2001;21:35–42. doi:10.1016/s0961-9534(01)00015-0.


  • Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India