Soil erosion, Degradation, and conservation UPSC| Biogeography| Physical Geography

Soil is a renewable valuable resource. 95 % of human needs for food and cloth are obtained from the soil. Due to human activities, at present, soils are facing two major problems;

  • Soil Erosion
  • Soil Degradation


Soil Erosion:

Soil Erosion means the transportation of topsoil [ O and A horizon of the soil profile]. Soil loses fertility due to soil erosion.

Cause of soil erosion;

Natural Cause:

  • River Water erosion such as gully and sheet erosion
  • Wind erosion
  • Wave erosion

Man-made cause:

  • Overgrazing
  • Mining
  • Deforestation
  • Construction of infrastructure in the mountainous region

The consequence of soil erosion:

  • Loss of soil fertility leads to a decrease in natural vegetation and affects agricultural output.
  • It decreases the groundwater recharging rate
  • Soil erosion leads to silting of the river bed that causes a flood in lower riparian areas

Prevention of soil erosion:

  • Control of overgrazing
  • Reforestation
  • Contour plowing
  • Stonewall bunding


Soil Degradation:

Soil degradation leads to a decrease in the quality of the soil. Here, there is no transportation of the soil; it degrades in the same place.

Soil degradation is largely caused by soil pollution, deforestation, overgrazing, mining, and quarrying[ open pit mining for sand, gravel, and boulders]. 

In India;

  • Soil degradation in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha is caused by mining and deforestation.
  • In Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, soil degrades largely by Overgrazing. 
  • In Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh, the soil is degraded by faulty irrigation practices.
  • Soils in the urban areas and around the industrial center are degrading due to pollution.
  • Soil is also degrading in many parts of counties due to the overuse of fertilizer and pesticides.

Cause of soil degradation:

Natural Cause

  • Drought leads to the calcification of the soil.
  • Flood or heavy rain leads to the leaching of minerals from topsoil. Flood also bring pollution from other areas. 

Human Activities:

  • Use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides in the soil.
  • Salinization of the canal
  • Jhumming cultivation.
  • Mono crop farming
  • Wasteland; unutilized lands lead to soil degradation.
  • Badland (the semi-arid region)
  • Urban waste disposal
  • Brick making from topsoil


Conservation of soil degradation:

  • Flood control measures such as the making of a flood dam 
  • Social forestry
  • Use of green manure and biofertilizer
  • Proper disposal of waste.

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