Addressing soil loss
Mains Paper: 3 | Environment
Prelims level: Weathered soil
Mains level: Explain the impact of soil loss on environment.
- Rains abate in Kerala and parts of Kodagu district in Karnataka, the loss of lives and the devastation of infrastructure and crops is apparent.
- However, as rebuilding is planned, what is often ignored is the soil that has been washed away.
- While roads and houses will be rebuilt, and crop losses compensated partially through insurance, the gradual loss of soil productivity can have a lasting impact on the local economy.
Impacts of soil degradation
- Soil degradation due to flooding is a serious concern.
- A 2014 review of soil degradation in India by multiple institutions shows that an estimated 14 million hectares suffer soil degradation due to flooding annually.
- Researchers from the National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS&LUP) and other institutes estimate that 13 flood hit districts lost 287 million tonnes of top soil and soil nutrients across 10.75 million hectares of farmland.
- The replacement of nutrients such as nitrates, phosphates and iron would have cost ₹1,625 crore, while another ₹853 crore would have been spent on replenishing organic material lost.
- To recover and replace would take a “considerable” amount of time, and a steadfast programme of recovery.
- There is no comprehensive scheme for recovery, and the effect of the floods is still visible on the ground.
- A soil profile of a few affected districts, done under the State’s integrated watershed scheme.
- It shows large swathes of these areas having “shallow or very shallow” soil depth, organic carbon deficiency, and low productivity of land.
- Not all floods are bad for the soil, as seen in the oft occurring floods along the banks of the Ganga, Kosi, Brahmaputra and other rivers taking birth in the Himalayas.
- There, the gushing river emanating from the mountains carries with it loosened alluvial soil, and not only washes over farmlands, but also replenishes flood plains with fertile soil.
- However, in south and central India, floods wash away rich, weathered soil, which are deposited in reservoirs or as sand bars along the river bed or in the sea.
- Any rehabilitation programme must consider this lost soil.
UPSC Prelims Questions:
Q.1) Deforestation may reduce the chances of:
A. Rain fall
B. Frequent cyclones
C. Erosion of surface soil
D. Frequent landslides
Answer: Option A
UPSC Mains Questions:
Q.1) Explain the impact of soil loss on environment.