As World Soil Day (WSD) 2022 arrives on December 5, over 29% (96.4 million hectares) of India’s entire geographical area (328.7 million hectares) is degraded, with the level of degradation in terms of soil fertility reaching 40% globally.

 

About World Soil Day

WSD 2022, with the guiding theme “Soils: Where Food Begins,” aims to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining healthy soils, ecosystems and human well-being.

 

What is ‘land degradation’?

  • Land degradation is the deterioration or loss of the productive capacity of the soils for present and future.
  • Reasons for the large land degradation in India — Over-exploitation of land through unsustainable farming practices, mining and deforestation over the centuries.
  • Threats — If the current trends continue, —
      • It would disrupt food supply and lead to rapid biodiversity loss and species extinctions in this century itself.
      • The world’s topsoil could become unproductive within 60 years.

 

Attempts to halt land degradation

  • Bringing life to soil through regenerative/restoration practices —
    • This includes nature-positive food production in rural landscapes and greening the urban areas through planting trees and protecting vegetation.
    • These can also enhance the world’s ability to cope with drought, floods, wildfires, sand storms and pollution linked to dust.
  • Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) —
    • Restoring soil fertility by regenerating organic content and microorganism is one of the key components of the whole land restoration exercises.
    • The ZBNF guides the farmers towards sustainable farming practices, which helps not only in retaining soil fertility but also ensuring low cost of production and thereby enhancing the farmers income.

 

Global efforts

  • Under a UN Convention, the countries have already agreed to restore one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030 by achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN).
  • Under LDN, the quantity and quality of land resources stay steady or increase, taking into account degradation and restoration. If a country achieves LDN, there will be no net loss in terms of land degradation.

 

What India is doing?

  • The Government of India is implementing a five-pronged strategy for soil conservation, including,
      • Making soil chemical-free,
      • Saving soil biodiversity,
      • Enhancing SOM,
      • Maintaining soil moisture,
      • Mitigating soil degradation and preventing soil erosion.
  • India has been working to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land throughout the country by 2030 and voluntarily pledged to achieve LDN by 2030.
  • India is currently pitching for fertilisers/pesticides-free ZBNF and soil health cards (SHC) scheme informs farmers of the status of soils, providing a ground for multiple actions for restoring soil fertility.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana prevents soil erosion, regeneration of natural vegetation, rainwater harvesting and recharging of the groundwater table.
  • In addition, the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) has schemes promoting traditional indigenous practices such as organic farming and natural farming.
  • The FAO is collaborating with the —
      • National Rainfed Area Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare to develop forecasting tools to make informed decisions on crop choices.
      • The Ministry of Rural Development, supports the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihoods Mission’s (DAY-NRLM) Community Resource Persons to increase their capacities.