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Land Degradation and Conservation

Last Updated : 19 Dec, 2023
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Land Degradation and Conservation: Land degradation refers to the phenomenon due to the activities of humans, because of which there is a loss of fertility of the soil, resulting in decreased quality of soil. This is dangerous for nature and can result in further disasters. Continuous use of land over a period without taking appropriate measures for conserving and managing has resulted in land degradation. Some important measures to control land degradation include afforestation, controlled mining activities, and building shelter belts.

Land Degradation and Conservation

Land Degradation and Conservation

Land Degradation and Conservation

Natural vegetation, wildlife, human life, economic activities, transport, and communication systems are supported by land. In India 43% of the land is plain, mountains account for 30%, and about 27% is covered by the plateau region.95% of our basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter are obtained from the land. But human greed and other activities have led to the degradation of land. 

Deterioration or loss of the productive capacity of the land because of continuous use of land over a period of a long time without taking appropriate measures to conserve it. Due to the process of land degradation land becomes unfit for cultivation.

  • Mining sites: Once the excavation work is done, mining sites are abandoned. This excavation work leaves deep scars and other harmful materials which degrade the soil and makes it unfit for other constructive activities. In states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha deforestation that happened due to mining has caused severe land degradation.
  • Mineral processing: Grinding of limestones, ceramic industries release a huge amount of dust which later settles down in surrounding areas. Thus, mineral processing for industries is also one of the reasons for land degradation.
  • Overgrazing: This is also one of the reasons for land degradation. Overgrazing of land by animals leads to the clearing of most of the grass on that particular land, making it easy for wind and water to remove the upper layer of soil. Loss of soil makes the land unfit or unsuitable for cultivation or any other agricultural practices. Insects or other species that live there will lose their habitat. Due to overgrazing, the soil will lose its structure. The soil could also be easily swept or run off by the heavy rains. Soil erosion due to grazing is most common in hilly areas. In Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat overgrazing had caused land degradation.
  • Over-irrigation: In states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh over-irrigation is the reason for land degradation. Over-irrigation leads to an increase in salinity and alkalinity of soil making it unfit for salinity and alkalinity affects soil badly and reduces its fertility.
  • Industrial effluents: Wastes are the major source of land and water pollution.
  • Deforestation: Increasing population requires more resources and other facilities. This has created pressure on forest areas and lands. Soil and plants are interdependent on each other. Soil provides required nutrients and minerals for the growth of plants and trees, in turn, the roots of the plants and trees hold the soil particles together saving soil from wind and water and preventing soil erosion. But deforestation(soil particles are no more held together by the roots of the trees or plants)makes the soil more vulnerable or prone to wind and water which cause soil erosion. In some parts, soil erosion is largely due to deforestation.
  • Mining and Developmental Projects: Again for mining and other constructions a huge number of forests are cleared in the name of development.
  • Economical importance and value of the forest plants and trees: Many trees and other plants are cut for their high economical value. Trees are cut for the wood which could be used by many industries to make paper, furniture, plywood, match sticks, etc. Some plants are cut to get some raw materials like drugs, perfumes, resin, gum, waxes, rubber, tannin, latex, etc. Overgrazing, mining, agricultural activities, flood, and forest fire are the causes of deforestation. Which is again a root cause of land degradation.
  • Desertification: Due to human activities or climate change desert-like conditions are spread in arid or semi-arid areas. As sand could be easily carried by the wind, it goes on getting deposited on other fertile lands or agricultural lands nearby due to which the fertile land loses its fertility and finally merges with the desert. Climate change also causes desertification. Deposition of sand in rivers, lakes, or other water bodies decreases water holding capacity. Desertification decreases agricultural production.
  • Soil erosion: It is the process by which soil loses its uppermost layer of soil which is more fertile. Only the less fertile subsoil is left after soil erosion. The topsoil is rich in nutrients and minerals which are required for the growth of plants. Soil erosion makes the land unfit for cultivation and other agricultural activities. Water, wind, raindrops, and landslides are some of the causes of soil erosion.

Measures to Control Land Degradation

Important measures to control land degradation are:

  • Afforestation: Afforestation is growing more new plants and trees and preventing the destruction of already existing forests. For the whole country, 20%-25% of forest land was considered enough for soil and water conservation. But it was then raised to 33%. The best way of conserving soil and water is to grow as many plants and trees as possible as they hold the soil and absorb water. 
  • Management of Overgrazing: As we know overgrazing causes soil erosion. It’s during the dry period animals run out of fodder and start grazing on grass. They almost remove the grass with its roots and the ground is almost torn out. As a result which uppermost layer of soil loses its fertility. Now soil particles are no longer held by roots. So they can easily be carried by the wind and water. So Overgrazing needs to be checked to prevent soil erosion. Separate grounds can be created and a large amount of fodder should be arranged for animals.
  • Construction of Dams: Much soil erosion happens due to river floods. This can be prevented by constructing dams across the river. This way we can check the speed of water and prevent soil erosion.
  • Planting of shelters of plants or windbreaks: In coastal regions trees are planted to check the wind movement. One or two rows of trees or shrubs are planted to prevent soil erosion by wind. This is a way of protecting soil from wind.
  • Proper management of waste lands: Wastelands are the lands that were destroyed due to fires, overgrazing, or deforestation. Now growing the forest again that is Reforestation would be the best way of using the wasteland. Excess water and fertilizers could also be used to bring wasteland under cultivation. Reforestation and other agronomic methods could also be used to conserve soil, which then can be used for agricultural activities.
  • Control over mining activities: By using cleaner production techniques mining activities can be controlled. Mining techniques shouldn’t have a great impact on the land. Mining wastes should be reused. Illegal mining sites should be shut down. We need to keep a check on mining activities as it causes soil erosion, pollution, species loss, and deforestation.
  • Proper discharge of industrial wastes: Industrial could be treated before they are released into water bodies or land. Landfill, Incineration, and composting are some of the methods used to dispose of industrial waste. These methods should be used for the proper discharge of industrial wastes. By using the technique of Reduce Reuse and Recycle, industrial wastes can be properly disposed of.

Related Links

  1. Why land degradation in India has increased?
  2. Conservation of Land resources
  3. Environmental degradation in India

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is degradation and conservation?

Deterioration or loss of the productive capacity of the land because of continuous use of land over a period of long time without taking appropriate measures to conserve it. Land conservation refers to the measures by which we can minimize the effects of land degradation.

2. What is soil degradation and conservation?

Soil degradation refers to the physical, chemical and biological decline in the quality of soil. It can be loss of organic matter, decline of soil fertility, and structural conditions.

3. What is land degradation?

Land degradation refers to the deterioration or loss of the productive capacity of the soil for present as well as future.

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