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Mapping of soil erosion in India

Published: 11th Apr, 2024

Context

A new study has revealed a worrying trend for India’s soil health. Nearly 30 per cent of the country’s landmass is experiencing “minor” soil erosion, while a critical 3 per cent faces “catastrophic” topsoil loss.

1: Dimension- Findings and Concerns
  • The biggest hotspot for soil erosion in the country is the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam. 
  • The north-eastern state Assam lost close to 300 square kilometres or 31 per cent of its surface soil to “catastrophic” erosion. 
  • Apart from the Brahmaputra Valley, the lower reaches of the Himalayas are characterised by moraine or loose soil and highly unstable slopes.
  • Topsoil is vital for agriculture as it holds nutrients and moisture essential for plant growth. Erosion significantly reduces fertility and can lead to decreased crop yields. 
  • Carbon:Land degradation reduces the soil’s ability to absorb carbon.
  • Worsened climate change:Land degradation and climate changefuel each other.
  • Threat to food security:Degraded land in the country is either rainfed farmland, responsible for the food security of the country, or forest land that offers the best defence against climate change.
  • Economic loss: Lost productivity can weigh heavily on the economy.
2: Dimension- Factors killing soil & solution
  • Farming practicessuch as tilling break up the soil and destroy its natural structure, killing many of the vital bacteria.
  • Agricultural chemicalscan alter the physiological, metabolic and biochemical behaviour of microbiota in the soil. This can disrupt the relationships between plants and microbes, decreasing nutrient bioavailability.
  • Pressures of population growth, food insecurity and agricultural intensification are leading to widespread soil degradation. This degradation can take many forms- degradation, erosion, acidification, salinization
  • Others: Burning of crop residues, land misuse and soil mismanagement and climate change
  • Solution: Replenishment, adopting organic practice (inter-cropping, mixed cropping, practicing crop rotation, Agroforestry, Permaculture, adopting biofertilizers.

Fact Box

Soil

  • Soil is a mixture of small rock particles/debris and organic materials/ humus which develop on the earth surface and support growth of plants.
  • A soil profile is a vertical cross-section of the soil, made of layers running parallel to the surface. These layers are known as soil horizons.
  • The layers of soil can easily be identified by the soil colour and size of soil particles. The different layers of soil are:
    • Topsoil
    • Subsoil
    • Parent rock
  • It could take up to 1,000 years to produce 2 to 3 centimetres of top or surface soil, which has a depth of 6 cm. 

Government Interventions

  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  • Soil Health Card Scheme
  • Soil Health Management Scheme
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PKSY)
  • Per Drop More Crop
  • India is signatory to achieving Land Degradation Neutrality by 2030.

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