Ladakh: Overexploitation of natural resources contributing to soil degradation
LEH: Facing environmental issues, the union territory of Ladakh amid natural and human-induced factors is facing numerous challenges including most concerning soil degradation.
Ladakh is a region located in the northernmost part of India, which is known for its unique geography, culture, and traditional way of life. However, the region is facing various environmental challenges, including soil degradation. Soil degradation in Ladakh is a significant concern for the agricultural sector, as the region is mainly dependent on agriculture for its economy and livelihoods.
Multiple are the causes resulting in soil degradation here including wind erosion, water erosion, overgrazing, and unsustainable farming practices, said a farmer and added that the region has a fragile ecosystem, and the arid climate, steep slopes, and sparse vegetation make the soil more susceptible to erosion. “The overexploitation of natural resources, such as water, timber, and fuelwood, has also contributed to soil degradation in Ladakh,” he asserted.
Cold desert has mostly sandy, sandy loam soil and have medium to medium-high levels of organic matter. This soil has less water-holding capacity. Some alluvial soils are found in the bank of the Sind river, but mostly mountainous soils are found in different areas of Ladakh.
The soils are alkaline in reaction, pH ranging from 8.3 to 8.6, low in organic carbon (0.16 to 0.58%) and cation exchange capacity (2.6 to 3.6 cmol p + kg -1).
To address the issue of soil degradation in Ladakh UT, the government from time to time has implemented various measures to conserve the soil and promote sustainable agricultural practices, despite this still Ladakh has a long and typical way to go in conserving soil.
Another farmer informed that as one of the benefitting and key measures promoted by the government, we practice organic farming, with reduced to negligible use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that degrade the soil quality. “Most farmers here encourage the use of traditional farming methods, such as crop rotation and mixed cropping, which help to maintain soil fertility and prevent erosion,” he added.
He suggested that well planned measures should be taken to conserve soil in Ladakh including construction of check dams and other water conservation structures to control water erosion.
Implemented afforestation programs to increase the vegetation cover and prevent wind erosion would certainly add to it. These efforts could be successful in restoring degraded lands and improving soil quality in the region.
Not only government but people of Ladakh also need to regulate grazing and prevent overgrazing, which is a leading cause of soil degradation in the UT, a Kargil based farmer said and added however, the government has established grazing reserves and implemented rotational grazing practices to allow the vegetation to recover and prevent soil erosion.
We consider soil degradation a significant environmental challenge in Ladakh that affects the region’s agricultural productivity and sustainability, he said.
Our collective efforts would help to restore degraded lands and improve soil quality in the region. However, up to the mark determination is needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture and the environment in Ladakh, he concluded.
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