World Soil Day is celebrated on 5th December. In 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly declared this date as World Soil Day to promote the cause of soils. The World Soil Day campaign aims to sensitize people and raise awareness that our food, water, climate, biodiversity and life are intimately connected to the soil, that we have neglected the soil for too long now and that each year some 75 billion tons of fertile soil are lost to erosion.
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers (soil horizons) that are composed of weathered mineral materials, organic material, air and water (Bockheim et al.).Soil is constantly being formed by the combined effects of the climate, relief (slope), organisms (flora and fauna), and parent materials (original minerals).
The soil is most widely used for agriculture – food production being the most appropriate medium for plant growth (arid lands, desert and other soil free areas are devoid of this productive capacity). It is also the reservoir of global biodiversity and plays a key role in the supply of clean water and resilience to floods and droughts. Soil has been recognized as the largest terrestrial sink for carbon dioxide and consequently has great importance in mitigating the impacts of climate change (FAO, 2004). Soil is used for treatment of ailments. Gandhiji used poultice of soil for abdominal troubles. Mud houses are still built, particularly in the African and Asian continents.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization focussed World Soil Day 2015 on the theme ‘Soils, a solid ground for life’. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his message for the occasion said:
“Sustainable soil management is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – many of which reflect the centrality of soils to sustain life, food, and water…
“The challenge before us is clear. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded. This trend must be reversed through sustainable soil management practices.”
While there is no doubt that Governments, including our Government, collect soil data, bring together the information and take appropriate action to control soil degradation and soil erosion, Individual contribution to protect the soil rests in preventing soil erosion and in the deliberate check on soil pollution through the judicious use of chemicals, insecticides, dumping of petroleum products and other toxic/electronic disposables.
By taking timely steps we can get the future we want: Healthy soils to meet the varied needs for food, biomass (energy), fodder, and other products, and the provision of essential ecosystem.
* Published in print edition on 11 December 2015