Soil conservation includes -all those measures, which help in protecting the soil from soil erosion. Soil erosion has been continuing over such a large part of India for a long time that has assumed alarming situation. Soil is also our most precious asset and no other gift of nature is so essential to human life as soil.
Productive soil also ensures prosperous agriculture, industrial development, economic betterment and a higher standard of living. India is also an agriculture country and it is the base of India economy. About 60% of people India are still dependent on agriculture sector and soil erosion is the greatest single threat to Indian agriculture. It has been also estimated that an area of over 80 million hectares or about one-fourth of our total area is exposed to soil erosion.
Ironically the extent soil erosion is increasing in spite of our efforts to check soil erosion. Expert has estimated that about 40,000 hectares of our land is permanently lost to cultivation and much larger area is rendered less productive every year due to wind and water erosion.
Wind erosion is a serious problem in arid and semi-arid parts of North India and about 45 million hectares of land is subject to severe wind erosion in Rajasthan and adjoining area of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Western Uttar Pradesh. Soil erosion is more active in wet areas receiving more rainfall, steep slope, Swift flow of rivers and scarce vegetation covered areas.
There are various effects of this soil erosion such as loss of soil fertility and fall in agricultural productivity, flooding, rivers, Canals and tanks are silted and their water holding capacity decreases. As a result of soil erosion economy as a whole suffers a great setback.
It is also estimated that about two-thirds of out arable land needs conservation measures. There is therefore an urgent need to conserve soil for prosperity. Our peasantry is also not fully aware of many benefits of soil conservation. However, the following methods are normally adopted for conserving soil.
Afforestation is the increasing the area under forests and it is the best way to conserve soil. A minimum area of forest land for the whole country that is considered healthy for soil and water conservation is between 20-25%.
(ii) Checking overgrazing:
Animals freely move about in the fields for grazing and destroy the soil by their hoof which leads to soil erosion. Thus over grazing of forests and grass lands by animals like goats and sheep should be properly checked.
(iii) Constructing Dams:
Much of the soil erosion by river floods can be avoided by constructing dams across the rivers. This checks the speed of water and saves soil from erosion.
(iv) Changing Agricultural Practices:
This include crop rotation, strip cropping, use of early maturing varieties, contour ploughing Terracing, and contour bunding, checking, Shifting cultivation, ploughing the land in Right direction etc.