Soil Erosion in IndiaGlobally, soil erosion is threatening to reduce the availability of soil suitable for agriculture in the upcoming decades. In India, the rate of soil erosion is particularly alarming. As of 2017, the country saw an average soil erosion rate of 16.35 tonnes per hectare per year, a rate significantly higher than the 2020 global average of just 2.4 tonnes per hectare per year. As a result, soil erosion poses a great threat to India’s agricultural sector and economy as a whole.

Though a natural phenomenon to some extent, soil erosion has drastically increased as a result of activities that involve intensive agriculture, land use changes and deforestation. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), such activities have accelerated the rate of soil erosion by as much as 1,000-fold. Integral to the health of global ecosystems, soil supports all life, facilitating the growth of plants, providing vital nutrients and housing billions of microorganisms upon which all humans and environments rely. The consequences of soil erosion include reduced agricultural productivity, degraded ecosystems and reduced biodiversity. Furthermore, it can contribute to landslides, floods and other natural disasters and, ultimately, displace human populations.

Causes of Soil Erosion in India

In India, areas with steep slopes and heavy rainfall are particularly prone to soil erosion, as are areas with strong and persistent winds. Such factors heighten the risk of rapidly losing large amounts of soil. Since the start of the 20th century, increased demand for food production in India has resulted in the widespread use of intensive farming practices that do not prioritize soil health and conservation. Although intensive agriculture produces the highest possible yields for the lowest cost while maximizing profits and reducing the price of food products, it is not sustainable. Large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides not only pollute water and air but also degrade the soil. Additionally, intensive agriculture applies crop irrigation practices that account for some 70% of global human consumption of freshwater.

Possible Solutions

With around 58% of the population employed in the agricultural sector, agriculture is the leading source of livelihood in India. The Indian Government has recognized the need to prevent soil erosion and protect the country’s remaining soils by encouraging sustainable farming practices. For example, crop rotation can help soils remain fertile because different plants drain the soil of different nutrients. Also, planting certain crops can also help heavily degraded soils recover, facilitating the restoration of healthy soils with sufficient nutrient levels.

Looking Forward

While it is clear that there is still room for work with respect to protecting India’s soils and ensuring the sustainability of its key industry, the country continues to make steps toward progress. In the 1950s, the Indian Government began introducing regulations and projects to address the growing concern of soil loss. More recently, Soil Health Card Schemes is promoting the use of appropriate amounts of fertilizer to reduce soil harm and educate farmers on sustainable soil practices. In 2022, the Indian Prime Minister also reinforced the “Save Soil Movement,” which focuses on making the soil chemical-free, saving its living organisms, maintaining its moisture, reversing the damage caused by a decrease in groundwater and stopping soil erosion due to deforestation. Despite the severity of the situation, a continuation of the current strategies and ongoing efforts to identify other innovative strategies could minimize the threat that soil erosion poses to Indian agriculture.

– Hannah Naylor
Photo: Flickr

Soil DegradationAn environmental problem that needs addressing in today’s world is soil degradation. This fundamental element that provides food and other resources to society for generations is in danger. More than half the world’s soil is degraded, leading to hunger and poverty issues for future generations. However, organizations similar to Conscious Planet and Sadhguru are taking strides to eliminate soil degradation through the Save Soil movement.

What is Save Soil?

It is a movement that started 24 years ago, intent on revitalizing the world’s depleting soil to leave a better life for future generations. A mystic named Sadhguru started the movement when he noticed that soil degradation was rapid in India and theorized that within the next quarter-century most of the agricultural land in Tamil would become a desert. This would lead to food and water shortages for the children of the future.

One of Sadhguru’s most influential movements was Project Greenhands. For this movement, Sadhguru educated locals on environmental protection as a large national campaign and encouraged locals in areas around India to plant trees and other green life in otherwise deserted areas. In 2006, this movement set a Guinness record for the most saplings planted in 3 days.

Since the start of the movement other organizations, such as Conscious Planet are stepping in as well to educate the public on soil degradation and take measures to revitalize the soil.

Agricultural Problems in Tamil

According to a study, there is an issue of soil degradation in Tamil and an increase in Salinity in agricultural areas. This is drying out lands leading to further degradation.

What is even more concerning is that there doesn’t seem to be much of an interest to restore local agricultural areas leading to higher chances of poverty and hunger in the future. One of the government’s 2021 disaster management plans doesn’t identify clear policies to contain the increasing salinity in Tamil soil.

Some improvements have been made like the Tamil Nadu government passing the Protected Agricultural Zone Development Act, which prohibits industries from expanding onto agricultural land.

Conscious Planet

In its own words, Conscious Planet is trying to align societal activities towards eco-friendly means of life. The organization hopes to see a society in the future acting more environmentally conscious and to see world governments doing the same with environmental issues being key election points.

It wants to achieve these goals through the Save Soil movement by drawing public attention to dying soil, mobilizing others to support soil saving policy and driving policies in approximately 193 nations to raise and maintain the contents of soil by 3-6%.

A Journey to Save Soil

One of the biggest campaigns the Save Soil movement has is the Save Soil Journey. This event is a 100-day motorcycle trek from the United Kingdom to India where Sadhguru and several others in the movement travel from nation to nation speaking with leaders of government about the environment and how to better preserve soil. This movement has the goal to raise environmental awareness of soil degradation to more than three billion people and garner support from government leaders for stronger soil-saving policies. At home, you can become an “Earth Buddy” by listening to the teachings and resources of Sadhguru while he is on his journey.

A Look Ahead

Through movements such as these, awareness can be raised around environmental issues and take strides to revitalize soil to eliminate world hunger for future generations.

Alex Havardansky
Photo: Flickr