Soil is an important factor to sustain life on earth. Millions of years ago there was only rocks and water on the face of earth. Soil was formed due to the slow and gradual weathering of rocks.
It is an important resource that took millions of years to form. Hence it can also be termed as a non-renewable resource. Rocks are still under continuous weathering process. But it takes much time to form a new layer of soil. Hence we shouldn’t waste soil.
Soil comes to use to the following uses
- It provides humans food. Crops grow in soil.
- Trees grow on soil. Trees provide oxygen. Oxygen requirement is high on earth. Hence soil sustains life on earth.
- Soil forms a cover for the underground water resources. We get sweet and cold groundwater from wells and tube wells because of the soil cover on top. It keeps the water cold.
- Rich soil cover provides the growth of grass on top which helps to capture the rain water which seeps through it and reaches the underground water sources.
- We walk on soil roads, buildings, markets are all built on soil. It provides a base for us to build our infrastructure.
- In the seas, underwater also, soil is present. It sustains the marine life. Fishes thrive on the planktons and algae that grow on it and in turn fishes are a food to us. Hence soil is indirectly responsible for providing us not only vegetative food but meat as well.
Hence we can see soil is needed by us not only in one way but in numerous ways which are hard to even list. But nowadays due to various factors we are losing these rich resources. It is getting polluted and depleted fast. Soil is losing its fertility and is getting depleted.
One common term that comes to ears these days is the term ‘soil erosion’. Soil erosion is the loss of rich top cover of soil. Erosion means something which gets eroded or something which gets lost easily. Soil erosion happens due to various factors.
The factors which influence soil erosion are
- Lack of adequate grass cover- due to excessive cattle grazing soil is losing its grass cover. Also humans don’t take up any initiative to replenish the grass cover that they are taking away. Soil is left open. Without protection to get filled by nature itself. By the time another grass cover grows soil gets blown away by wind or water. Hence over grazing causes soil erosion. Vast plots of land are left barren due to this reason.
- Deforestation– this is the biggest and the most important factor behind the cause of soil erosion. The roots of trees hold soil together. When trees are removed the binding property gets lost. The soil becomes loose and hence it is free to travel and gets blown away by air, water and various other factors.
- Water flow– continuously flowing water of the rivers depletes the soil of the river banks. In places where water pressure is much. They create cracks in the river beds and remove an enormous amount of land which flows out along with the river. Any settlement built near the edges also gets devastated by it. In the Ganges and the Brahmaputra valley, along the lines of Sunderbans it is a common phenomenon. Soil gets saturated with water and ultimately flow out along with it.
- High pressure winds/ storms- winds are the main reasons for removing soil cover. Winds blow away the loose particles of soil and hence contribute to soil erosion.
- Floods and landslides- floods and landslides are common in India. Floods caused due to heavy rainfall sweep away the rich top soil cover (humus) along with it and dump it into the oceans where it is completely unusable. Landslides occur on hilly areas. It happens when the soil gets very loose due to removal of trees on the slope and also due to saturation with water more than the gradient. Hence this loose soil travels down the slopes and takes all the other things that comes in its way along with it, be it a tree, car or a house itself.
Soil erosion in India
The sands of the Thar Desert blows with the high velocity winds and settle on the fertile soils of the adjoining lands thus rendering them infertile as well. This has been going on for years. Not just this loss of binding agents due to deforestation (for developing cities and roads) also add to the factors causing soil erosion.
Cattle raising is also a livelihood of the people in the rural parts. They contribute to soil erosion. India is intercepted by rivers. Continual erosion happens at the banks of all the rivers.
How can we stop soil erosion?
We can stop soil erosion by following the few listed steps:-
- Creating embankments along rivers
- Planting trees like banyan etc along the banks, or trees whose roots reach deep below the soil
- Developing more grass cover. Wherever there it barren land, it should be filled by lush green grass
- Using alternate fields for cattle grazing so that pressure isn’t on one land only.
- Avoiding deforestation. Planting more trees
- Fertilizing the soil by mixing compost, manure and fertilizers
- Creating planter beds and wind breaks to capture loose sand particles carried by high velocity winds.
- Creating retaining walls to hold the soil along slopes as well as along banks.
- Promoting terrace farming or step farming in the hilly regions so that soil washed down in one slope is accumulated in the next slope and so on.
Soil is a precious commodity which cannot be renewed. Hence we should not misuse it like we are doing it. Our betterment lies in its protection for us as well as for our future generations. And this cannot be done single-handedly. All the citizens not only of India but of the world have to join hands to achieve this goal.