Afforestation and Soil Conservation

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29 March, 2020 –
 By: Dr. M. Rajeshwar Naik, Dr. Ravinder Naik, Dr. Shivakrishna Kota, A. Nagarju, Dr. I. Thirupathi, U. Sravanthi, R. Mahesh Kumar7

A nation which destroys its soil, it destroys itself. Forest are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and gives fresh strength to our people.” 
The afforestation and soil conservation are two different terms but they are closely related with each other when it comes for the protection of soil and plants. If we define afforestation in simple terms we can say that it is the establishment of the forest or a stand of tree in an area where there was no previous tree cover. Coming to the soil conservation we will define soil as a unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface on the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants. As we all know that soils are essential for the continuity of life on the earth since many ecosystems depends on them for survival. Still, soils persist to face serious threats in so many ways i.e, soil erosion, use of chemical pesticides, excessive farming, water pollution and land pollution are some of the aspects that are upsetting the natural function of the soil. This is where soil conservation comes in. 
Soil conservation is the practice of protecting the soil against erosion or deterioration. It means, to prevent the soil loss from erosion or reduce fertility caused by over usage, acidification, salinization or other chemical contamination. Soil conservation involves the activities that can be undertaken to ensure the soils are at their optimum quality and health. It is a methodology to maintain the soil fertility, prevent soil erosion and exhaustion and improve the degraded condition of the soil. 
Both the term “Afforestation and soil conservation” are directly and indirectly linked with the protection of soil. Directly in the sense through cover crops, wind break, terrace farming, contour plowing, green manures, mineralization, dry faming, rain gardens, re establishment of forest covers, indigenous crops, prevent over grazing or indirectly by aforestation. As we are probably aware, the underlying foundation of the trees holds the dirt layer firmly, it is obvious that it encourages not making the dirt free and anticipates disintegration. Therefore, by planting increasing tree, the top layer of the dirt turns out to less incline to disintegration by wind, water, anything likely. Thus it averts disintegration and aids in the soil preservation and conservation. 

Importance of Soil Conservation 
Most of us have probably realized it by now that soil is necessary for the sustainability of human kind. It might sound a little cliché. Yet what we sow is what we harvest. While we have started some precautionary and conservation measures, here are few reasons why soil protection is imperative:  
The soil is literally the foundations of plant life. A tree will not be a tree without soil. While there are some plants that can leave in water or air, most plants need to be rooted to the ground. It is the soil that provides nutrition to this plant life. It is through this vegetation that nourishes the human kind and animal kingdom. 
The soil additional support the animal kingdom:- It will be almost impossible to support the human life without  land. Biodiversity relies on soil at all times. 
The soil is necessary for water supply:- The land is necessary ensure the quality of water that we derive from our earth. Soil and water co exist. Taking good care of our soil equates to taking care of water supply.
The protection of natural and agriculture land as link to a sustainable economy and healthy communities. In addition, conservation land and ecosystem services they provide are just as important to our economy and well being as are our roads residents and small businesses etc. Natural and agriculture lands are vital for water quality and supply, our wildlife and our tourism. This land supports us they provide pure and clean water, provide flood control, storm protection, food, recreation, clean air etc. Soil conservation is not an amenity value; it is vital for our future. As we think about the world around us and how it changed over the years, during most of our lifetime, we have seen large changes in the environment around us. We may have seen forest to cut down for housing or farm field to be turned in to a shopping centre. All though some of these changes are necessary for human survival, as we convert more and more natural land to develop land, there is a growing concern over the amount and quality of the natural land that remains. 

Soil Degradation
Land is an important natural resource which provides food, fuel, fodder and timber to us. But unfortunately the land has been exploited and abused mercilessly from centuries resulting in enhanced rate of land degradation. Land degradation is a big loss to economy as the land losses its production potential. The per capita man to land ratio is 0.48 hectare which is lowest in the world. 
Types of Land Degradation: 
Physical degradation:-Detoriation of physical properties.
Biological degradation:- reduction in soil organic matter, decline in biomass
Chemical degradation:- due to the nutrient depletion.
Extend of Land Degradation 
Degraded land includes eroded land, saline/alkaline land, water logged land and mined land. The total land area of India is 328.74mha of which about 178mha is converted into waste land. This includes 40mha of degraded forest. The total cultivable land of country is 144mha of which 80.6 mha is degraded sue to faulty agriculture practices and dense forest cover is reduced to 11% of total geographic area. Situation is so bad that cessation of abuse may no longer lead to self restoration of biological diversity, stability and productivity of the ecosystem. 
In India 24% of the land area is suffering from the problem of water erosion. Soil erosion by water in the form of rill and sheet erosion is a serious problem in the red and laterite soils of south and eastern India where about 40 tons per hectare of the top soil is lost annually. Over 4.4 mha of land is degraded due to shifting cultivation practiced largely by tribals in North eastern India. Wind erosion is the main problem in arid and semi arid region of the country. In India, about 50 mha of land is affected from wind erosion most of which belongs to Rajasthan and Gujarat. 
Approximately 150mha land of the country is affected from water and soil erosion as a result of which top fertile layer of the soil is lost annually at the rate of 6000 million tons per year. 

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.