Gullies and badlands of India: Genesis, geomorphology and land management

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Gully erosion is a formidable land degradation process globally. It is omnipresent across India, wherein two of the largest badlands regions in the world also exist. However, despite being affected by widespread gullying, gully erosion research in India has been rather limited, with key aspects of gully formation, morphologies and dynamics remaining unknown. Through this comprehensive systematic review, we synthesise previous studies on gully erosion in India and in turn highlight pivotal knowledge gaps. The review starts with a discussion of the causal factors of gullying in India, which underlines how gully initiation in several regions was an aftermath of deforestation and overgrazing. Contrastingly, the badlands of Central and Western India have mainly developed in response to natural triggers like neotectonics and Holocene climate change. The section on mapping highlights how mapping methodologies have not only been dictated by the availability of imagery and/or means of data processing, but also the mapping purpose—that is, individual gully channels or entire badlands. Although a few studies applying concepts of fractal geometry to characterise badlands’ geomorphology are innovative and unique, the most striking research gaps we have identified also pertain to understanding and quantification of gully geomorphology and erosion dynamics in different regions of India. Our review reveals that gullies of peninsular India have been the least studied, followed by those of the Himalayan and Sub-Himalayan region. Although the literature provides interesting examples of linkages between badlands development and the wider geomorphic evolution of the landscape, better chronological understanding is required to disentangle the relative importance of natural and anthropogenic drivers of landscape change in India’s badlands. Large-scale mapping of gully characteristics, quantification of gully morphologies, gully erosion rates and its share in catchment sediment budget across various physiographic regions or river basins of the country also constitute important areas for future research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2023


  • India
  • Gully erosion
  • Gully formation
  • Gully morphology
  • Gully Dynamics
  • Badlands


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