Soil erosion control requires special attention

January 10, 2021 - 17:25

TEHRAN – Iran loses 2 billion tons of soil annually and is moving towards recovery at a very slow pace, so one of the most important points to be addressed in the Seventh Development Plan is soil erosion control, head of the environmental committee of Expediency Discernment Council, has said.

Soil is one of the most vital non-renewable resources that many organisms on the planet depend on, as it ensures food security of the nations; so that it needs urgent attention, ISNA quoted Seyed Mohammad Mojabi as saying on Sunday.

Noting that it takes an average of 400 years to form a centimeter of soil on the planet, he said that in Iran's climate, this time is between 700 and 1000 years. Also, Iran stretches to 165 million hectares, where 90 million hectares are not covered by soil.

On the other hand, 76 million hectares have soil, 18.5 million hectares of which are agricultural lands, he added.

According to estimates, 16.4 tons of soil erodes in Iran per hectare, which is more than three times the global average, he said, adding, also, a total of 2 billion tons of soil erosion occurs in Iran annually, although this amount has increased in recent years due to heavy floods.

Each ton of soil is valued at $28 in terms of metal ores, so the loss of two billion tons of soil annually means the annual loss of $56 billion, which is more than revenues from the sale of oil and agricultural products, gardens, livestock, poultry, and fisheries.

Of course, measures have been taken to control soil erosion in the country, and the Forests, Rangelands, and Watershed Management Organization (FRWMO) has been able to reduce soil erosion by 1 ton per hectare through two programs, but due to severe soil erosion, it is still far from the global average, he explained.

Noting that in Article 38 of the Sixth Development Plan, certain tasks have been assigned to the responsible bodies in charge of soil protection, he added that these tasks include the implementation of watershed and aquifer management plans as well as soil protection operations on 10 million hectares and desertification operations and control of sand and dust storm hotspots on 1.1 million hectares.

The issue of soil, erosion, and pollution are mentioned in the Soil Protection Law. For example, Article 12 of this law states that a plan must be prepared to protect and rehabilitate the soil in areas that have been destroyed or contaminated. Article 16 of the law also states that destroyers and contaminants of the soil must stop their activities after being warned, and take action for compensation, he stated.

The soil conservation law was ratified by Guardian Council in June 2019, which has been passed by the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) in February 2020.

The bill has been approved after 14 years of effort put in by the Department of Environment, which is the responsible body to deal with business units polluting the soil or even shut down industries contributing to soil contamination. Moreover, the owners of mining, industrial, and manufacturing units active in the field of trade are obliged to comply with the law.

As per the law, any trade or export of soil is prohibited, and only the excretion of minerals or exportation of low amounts of soil for research purposes is excluded after meeting the legal process.

Soil protection awaiting funds

The FRWMO has achieved almost 50 percent of its goals in the Sixth Development Plan on controlling wind erosion hotspots, Mojabi stated.

He went on to note that of course, it can be said that this organization did not have enough funds to fully contain the issue, which means that with sufficient funds, we could significantly reduce soil erosion in the country.

In general, it can be said that Iran is moving towards curbing soil depletion at a very slow pace which is still far from the global average, he lamented, highlighting that hence, one of the most important points to be addressed in the Seventh Development Plan is the control of soil erosion.

More attention is required to be paid to this issue in the seventh plan as well as the required funds so that we are able to reduce soil erosion by one ton per hectare annually, he further emphasized.

Moreover, an accurate atlas of wind erosion hotspots is needed according to climate change and flash floods map so that we can take effective action at the right time, he suggested.

He also emphasized that land-use-change should be stopped especially on agricultural lands with fertile soils.

Soil importance

Kioumars Kalantari, head of the natural environment and biodiversity of the Department of Environment, said in December 2020 that “rich biodiversity and organism of soil, by storing more and better carbon, reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change and global warming.

There are about 3,000 billion tons of carbon in the soil, which is about 315 times the amount of carbon currently released into the Earth’s atmosphere.

One of the things that makes soil such a fundamental component of climate change is its long-term storage capacity of carbon, carbon can only live for 1 or 2 years if left on the surface, while can survive for hundreds or even thousands of years in the soil.

Carbon, in combination with soil minerals, is stabilized and will not be able to return to the Earth’s atmosphere as greenhouse gases.”

In addition, soil that stores large amounts of carbon is healthy, fertile and flexible, and is able to retain large amounts of water and nutrients, so to maintain soil health, it should not be contaminated in the first place and with new methods of crop and agricultural management increase the biological potential and health of the soil to preserve the components of biodiversity, genetic resources, and human health, he emphasized.

In the current situation, along with climate change, there are two important challenges globally, he noted, adding, at the national level, unfortunately, Iran is facing severe soil erosion.

Soil protection ensures the country’s food security, environmental health, biodiversity conservation, climate balance, and sustainable development, and we all need to have a correct understanding of the high values of soil in terms of planning, policy, conservation, as well as raising public awareness and protect it for present and future generations.

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