In India almost 130 million hectares of land, that is, 45 % of total geographical surface area, is affected by serious soil erosion through gorge and gully, shifting cultivation, cultivated wastelands, sandy areas, deserts and water logging. Soil erosion by rain and river that takes place in hilly areas causes severe landslides and floods, while cutting trees for agricultural implements, firewood and timber; grazing by a large number of livestock over and above the carrying capacity of grass lands, traditional agricultural practices, construction of roads, indiscriminate quarrying and other activities, have all led to the opening of hill-faces to extreme soil erosion.
Wind erosion causes development of deserts, dust, storms, whirlwinds and destruction of crops, while moving sand covers the land and makes it sterilised. Excessive soil erosion with resultant high rate of sedimentation in the reservoirs and decreased fertility has become solemn environmental problems for the country with disastrous economic consequences.
Soil Erosion in Indian Forests
The different parts of the country, North, South; East and West, have been affected by soil erosion at different levels. The forests in the Southern zone are least affected by soil erosion, while the rest of the areas are almost equally affected. The Southern Zones have the best preserved forests in the country. The highest level of erosion is seen occurring in the Central Zone. The Eastern Zone is the worst.
Deforestation and the Soil Erosion
Problems of degradation in forests are diverse. Some are general in nature occurring almost in all the zones. Others are confined to specific physiographic conditions or in particular geological formations or are connected with definite weather parameters. Northern and Central zones have almost identical patterns in the soil eroding and bio-degrading forces. Eastern zone suffers from shifting cultivation and excessive rainfall. Western zone suffers due to aridity. Southern zone suffers from general problems related to aridity, low productivity and shallow soil depth. Major chunk of soil eroded areas, however, come from agriculture and other land uses.
Types of Soil Erosion in India
There are numerous causes that lead to various types of soil erosion in India, such as natural factors, like wind and water and artificial factors like deforestation, mining etc. the different types of soil erosion in India are Normal or Geologic Erosion, Accelerated Soil Erosion, Wind Erosion, Water Erosion, Sheet Erosion, Gully Erosion, Landslides or Slip Erosion and Stream-Bank Erosion.
Effects of Soil Erosion in India
Soil erosion results in huge loss of nutrients in suspension or solution, which are washed away from one place to another, thus causing depletion or enrichment of nutrients. Besides the loss of nutrients from the topsoil, there is also degradation through the creation of gullies and ravines, which makes the land inappropriate for agricultural production. Subsidence of the land in some areas and landslides in the hilly regions are problems that have an effect on highways, habitations and irrigation dams.
Soil erosion ruthlessly affects agriculture which is the most important and widespread occupation of the nation. Physical damage is the most visible form of soil loss and most likely to be remedied. Ironically, the most damaging of all is the rainfall, when the water droplets hit the soil. From there on, the flow of water causes sheet-wash, surface gullies, tunnels and scours banks in rivers. In hot and dry climate of India, wind blowing is the main cause of soil erosion. The government is trying out various procedures of soil conservation in India to check the damages caused by this phenomenon.
Though soil erosion through natural agencies can hardly be checked, artificial means like mining, deforestation and others are being strictly brought under the umbrella of law and being stringently implemented. Indian government is adopting adequate measures to reduce the unpleasant effects of soil erosion in India particularly in the states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka.