Catastrophic Soil Erosion in India

GS-1 Mains : Geography

Short Notes or Revision Notes 

Question : Analyze the factors contributing to soil erosion in hotspot regions such as the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam, the Lower Himalayas, and Odisha. How do the topography, climate, and human activities exacerbate soil erosion in these areas?

Soil Erosion Explained

  • Breakdown and movement of soil particles by wind, water, or gravity.
  • Wind erosion – significant in arid/semi-arid regions.
  • Water erosion – common in high rainfall & steep slope areas.
  • Sheet erosion – removes top fertile soil on flat lands after heavy rain.
  • Gully erosion – cuts agricultural land on slopes, making it unfit for cultivation.

Recent Study Findings

  • ‘Geospatial modelling and mapping of soil erosion in India’ – first pan-India classification.
  • Six classifications: minor to catastrophic (based on annual soil loss per hectare).
  • Nearly 30% of India experiences minor erosion.
  • A critical 3% faces catastrophic topsoil loss (>100 tonnes/hectare/year).

Topsoil and its Importance

  • Topsoil – uppermost layer of soil vital for agriculture.
  • Holds nutrients and moisture essential for plant growth.
  • Erosion reduces fertility and leads to decreased crop yields.

Worst Affected Regions

  • Brahmaputra Valley, Assam: Biggest hotspot.
    • Lost 30% of surface soil to catastrophic erosion (~300 sq km).
    • Severe implications for agriculture and livelihoods.
  • Lower Himalayas: Characterized by unstable slopes and loose soil.
    • Stretches from Kashmir to Uttarakhand, Odisha, and Nepal.
  • Odisha: Another hotspot due to topography and seismic activity.

Impact of Soil Erosion

  • Takes 1000 years to produce 2-3 cm of topsoil (FAO).
  • Loss of soil fertility and water-holding capacity.
  • Detrimental to the region’s biodiversity.

The Need for Action

  • Urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to combat soil erosion.
  • This includes preventive measures and restoration efforts.
  • Unchecked erosion can severely impact agricultural productivity, threatening food security and rural livelihoods.

Conclusion

  • The study highlights the critical issue of soil erosion in India.
  • Strategies to prevent erosion and restore degraded lands are crucial.
  • Addressing soil erosion is a top priority for achieving sustainable development goals.

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