Sei sulla pagina 1di 15

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV



Types of Anthropogenic Disasters Isoil and soil degradation, desertification.


Many people do conceive the idea of soil degradation but a good number lacks the knowledge of its precise definition. To fill this knowledge gap, soil degradation simply means the decline in soil quality which comes about due to aspects such as improper land use, agriculture, and pasture, urban or industrial purposes. It involves the decline of the soil’s physical, biological and chemical state.

Soil degradation examples include decline in soil fertility, adverse changes in alkalinity, acidity or salinity, extreme flooding, use of toxic soil pollutants, erosion, and deterioration of the soil’s structural condition. These elements contribute to a significant amount of soil quality depreciation annually. Excessive soil degradation thus gives rise to immediate and long-term impacts which translate into serious global environmental headaches.

While soil degradation may occur naturally, it has been highly exuberated by anthropogenic activities. Besides, climate change combined with human activities continues to worsen soil degradation. With the objective of understanding the distinct nature of soil quality decline, here are the causes, effects, and solutions of soil degradation.

are the causes, effects, and solutions of soil degradation. CAUSES OF SOIL DEGRADATION 1. There are



There are several physical factors contributing to soil degradation distinguished by the manners in which they change the natural composition and structure of the soil. Rainfall, surface runoff, floods, wind erosion, tillage, and mass movements result in the loss of fertile top spoil thereby declining soil

quality. All these physical factors produces different types of soil erosion (mainly water and wind erosion) and

Physical Factors

soil detachment actions, and their resultant physical forces eventually changes the composition and structure of the soil by wearing away the soil’s top layer as well as organic matter. In the long-term, the physical forces and weathering processes lead to the decline in soil fertility and adverse changes in the soil’s composition/structure.

2. Biological Factors

Biological factors refer to the human and plant activities that tend to reduce the quality of soil. Some bacteria and fungi overgrowth in an area can highly impact the microbial activity of the soil through bio-chemical reactions, which reduces crop yield and the suitability of soil productivity capacity. Human activities such as poor farming practices may also deplete soil nutrients thus diminishing soil fertility. The biological factors affect mainly lessens the microbial activity of the soil.

3. Chemical Factors

The reduction of soil nutrients because of alkalinity or acidity or water logging are all categorized under the chemical components of soil degradation. In the broadest sense, it comprises alterations in the soil’s chemical property that determine nutrient availability. It is mainly caused by salt buildup and leaching of nutrients which corrupt the quality of soil by creating undesirable changes in the essential soil chemical ingredients. These chemical factors normally bring forth irreversible loss of soil nutrients and productivity capacity such as the hardening of iron and aluminum rich clay soils into hardpans.

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

4. Deforestation

Deforestation causes soil degradation on the account of exposing soil minerals by removing trees and crop cover, which support the availability of humus and litter layers on the surface of the soil. Vegetation cover primarily promotes thee binding of the soil together and soil formation, hence when it is removed it considerably affects the capabilities of the soil such as aeration, water holding capacity, and biological activity.

When trees are removed by logging, infiltration rates become elevated and the soil remains bare and exposed to erosion and the buildup of toxicities. Some of the contributing activities include logging and slash and burn techniques used by individuals who invade forest areas for farming, rendering the soils unproductive and less fertile in the end.

5. Misuse or excess use of fertilizers

The excessive use and the misuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers kill organisms that assist in binding the soil together. Most agricultural practices involving the use of fertilizers and pesticides often entail misuse or excessive application, thereby contributing to the killing of soil’s beneficial bacteria

and other micro-organisms that help in soil formation. The complex forms of the fertilizer’s chemicals are also responsible for denaturing essential soil minerals, giving rise to nutrient losses from the soil. Therefore, the misuse or excessive use of fertilizers increases the rate of soil degradation by destroying the soil’s biological activity and builds up of toxicities through incorrect fertilizer use.


Soil is chiefly polluted by industrial and mining activities. As an example, mining destroys crop cover and releases a myriad of toxic chemicals such as mercury into the soil thereby poisoning it and

such as mercury into the soil thereby poisoning it and Industrial and Mining activities rendering it

Industrial and Mining activities

rendering it unproductive for any other purpose. Industrial activities, on the other hand, release toxic effluents and material wastes into the atmosphere, land, rivers, and ground water that eventually pollute the soil and as such, it impacts on soil quality. Altogether, industrial and mining activities degrade the soil’s physical, chemical and biological properties.


There are certain agricultural practices that are environmentally unsustainable and at the same time, they are the single biggest contributor to the worldwide increase in soil quality decline. The tillage on

Improper cultivation practices

agricultural lands is one of the main factors since it breaks up soil into finer particles, which increase erosion rates. The soil quality decline is exuberated more and more as a result of the mechanization of agriculture that gives room for deep plowing, reduction of plant cover, and the formation of the hardpan. Other improper cultivation activities such as farming on steep slope and mono-cropping, row- cropping and surface irrigation wear away the natural composition of the soil and its fertility, and prevent soil from regenerating.

8. Urbanization

Urbanization has major implications on the soil degradation process. Foremost of all, it denudates the soil’s vegetation cover, compacts soil during construction, and alters the drainage pattern. Secondly, it covers the soil in an impermeable layer of concrete that amplifies the amount of surface runoff which

results in more erosion of the top soil. Again, most of the runoff and sediments from urban areas are extremely polluted with oil, fuel, and other chemicals. Increased runoff from urban areas also causes a huge disturbance to adjacent water sheds by changing the rate and volume of water that flows through them, and impoverishing them with chemically polluted sediment deposits.

9. Overgrazing

The rates of soil erosion and the loss of soil nutrients as well as the top soil are highly contributed by

overgrazing. Overgrazing destroys surface crop cover and breaks down soil particles, increasing the rates of soil erosion. As a result, soil quality and agricultural productivity is greatly affected.

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV


Normally, soil is rich in salts because the parent rock of the soil contains ionic substances. Seawater is another source of salts in low-lying area along the coast. A very common source of salts in irrigated soils, however, is the irrigation water itself. Most irrigation water contains some salts. After irrigation, the water added to the soil is used by the crops or evaporates directly form the moist soil. The salt, however, is left behind in the soil. Therefore, unless removed, it accumulates in the soil. This phenomenon is called salinization. A white layer of dry salt is sometimes observed on very salty soil. Salty groundwater may also contribute to salinization.

Most irrigation water contains some salts. After irrigation, the water added to the soil is used by the crops or evaporates directly form the moist soil. The salt, however, is left behind the soil. Therefore, unless removed, it accumulates in the soil. This phenomenon is called salinization. Salts in the irrigation water or soil cause an adverse effect on crop production.

To sustain production of crops, irrigation procedures need to be adjusted to control the salts in the soil, as well as controlling the salt concentration in the irrigation water. Electrolytic conductivity, cation exchange capacity, sodium adsorption ratio and other physico-chemical parameters, are used for assessing the salinity of soil and water. In order to mitigate the effects of salinization to maintain agricultural productivity, several measures have been practiced. The rise of groundwater is mainly caused by the capillary effect of the soil. Irrigation methods to avoid capillary rise have been developed. The most widely used method to improve salinity is leaching. Also, salt- tolerant crops are developed with the help of biotechnology, in order to be able to thrive in a saline environment.

in order to be able to thrive in a saline environment. Causes of Salinization In many

Causes of Salinization

In many places in the world, the productivity of soil has deteriorated because of an excess of salt has accumulated in the soil around the plant root zone. Large-scale soil salinization has mostly occurred in arid and semi-arid regions. Soil affected by salt also widely exists in sub-humid and humid (i.e. high rainfall) regions. Saline soil is particularly frequent in coastal areas since the soil in those areas is exposed to seawater.

Even if the water is low in salinity, the salinity in the soil will increase if the water is used for irrigation for a long time because the trace amount of salt gradually accumulates. Excessive salinity of the soil surface and the root zone are typical properties of saline soils. The main source of salts in soil is exposed bedrock in geologic strata in the Earth's crust. Salts are gradually released from the bedrock after becoming soluble through physical and chemical weathering such as hydrolysis, hydration, dissolution, oxidation, and carbonation. The released salts dissolve into the surface water or groundwater. As the water with dissolved salts flows from humid regions to less humid or arid regions, salts in the water are gradually concentrated.

The most dominant ions at the place where salts become soluble by weathering are carbonate and bicarbonate of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, if carbon dioxide exists. At first, the salinity of the water is low, but as the water flows from a humid area to a less humid area, it becomes higher as the water evaporates. As the salts in the water are further concentrated, salts with lower solubility start to precipitate. In addition, due to other mechanisms such as ion exchange, adsorption, and the difference of mobility, the concentrations of chemical substances dissolved in the water gradually shift; this always results in increased concentration of chloride and sodium ions in water and soil.

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC


1. Land degradation

Soil quality decline is one of the main causes of land degradation and is considered to be responsible for 84% of the ever diminishing acreage. Year after year, huge acres of land lost due to soil erosion, contamination and pollution. About 40% of the world’s agricultural land is severely diminished in

quality because of erosion and the use of chemical fertilizers, which prevent land from regenerating. The decline in soil quality as a result of agricultural chemical fertilizers also further leads to water and land pollutionthereby lowering the land’s worth on earth.

2. Drought and aridity

Drought and aridity are problems highly influenced and amplified by soil degradation. As much as it’s a concern associated with natural environments in arid and semi-arid areas, the UN recognizes the fact that drought and aridity are anthropogenic induced factors especially as an outcome of soil degradation. Hence, the contributing factors to soil quality decline such as overgrazing, poor tillage methods, and deforestation are also the leading causes of desertification characterized by droughts

and arid conditions. On the same context, soil degradation may also bring about loss of biodiversity.

3. Loss of arable land

Because soil degradation contributes to land degradation, it also means that it creates a significant loss of arable land. As stated earlier, about 40% of the world’s agricultural land is lost on the account of soil

world’s agricultural land is lost on the account of soil quality depreciation caused by agro-chemicals and

quality depreciation caused by agro-chemicals and soil erosion. Most of the crop production practices result in the topsoil loss and the damage of soil’s natural composition that make agriculture possible.


Land is commonly altered from its natural landscape when it rids its physical composition from soil degradation. For this reason, the transformed land is unable to soak up water, making flooding more

Increased flooding

frequent. In other words, soil degradation takes away the soil’s natural capability of holding water thus contributing to more and more cases of flooding.


Most of the soil eroded from the land together with the chemical fertilizers and pesticides utilized in agricultural fields are discharged into waterways and streams. With time, the sedimentation process can clog waterways, resulting in water scarcity. The agricultural fertilizers and pesticides also damage marine and freshwater ecosystems and the limits the domestic uses of the water for the populations that depend on them for survival.


1. Reducing deforestation

Avoiding deforestation completely is an uphill task. However, deforestation can be cut down and this can create an impressive way of reshaping and restoring forests and vegetation cover. As populations grow, individuals can be sensitized and educated regarding sustainable forest management and reforestation efforts. Also, preserving the integrity of guarded areas can significantly reduce demonstration.

Hence, there is a necessity for individuals all over the world to respect forest cover and reduce some of the human-driven actions that encourage logging. With the reduction of deforestation, soil’s ability to naturally regenerate can be restored. Governments, international organizations, and other environmental stakeholders need to ensure there are appropriate measures for making zero net deforestation a reality so as to inhibit soil degradation.

2. Land reclamation

The outcomes of soil erosion and quality decline are widely irreversible. Still, soil organic matter and plant nutrients can be replenished. To restore the lost soil mineral matter and organic content, it would

Pollution and clogging of waterways

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV

require what is known as land reclamation. Land reclamation encompasses activities centered towards restoring the previous organic matter and soil’s vital minerals. This may include activities such as the addition of plant residues to degraded soils and improving range management. Salinized soils can be restored by salt level correction reclamation projects and salinity control. One of the simplest but most forgotten methods of land reclamation is planting of vegetation such as trees, crops, and flowers over the affected soils. Plants act as protective covers as they are helpful at making the soil stronger by stabilizing the land surface.

3. Preventing salinization

Just like the old adage states that “prevention is better than cure,” so does the same concept apply in

solving the worldwide problem of soil degradation through salinization. The costs of preventing

salinization are incredibly cheaper than the reclamation projects in salinized areas. Consequently, actions such as reducing irrigation, planting salt tolerant crops, and improving irrigation efficiency will have high pay offs because the inputs and the labor-demanding aspects associated with reclamation projects are zero. Preventing salanization in the first place is thus an environmentally friendly means of offering solution to soil degradation.

4. Conservation tillage

Proper tillage mechanisms hold as one of the most sustainable ways of avoiding soil quality decline. This is otherwise known as conservation tillage, which means tillage mechanisms targeted at making very minimal changes to the soil’s natural condition and at the same time improving the soil’s productivity. Examples include leaving the previous year’s crop residue on the surface to shield the soil from erosion and avoiding poor tillage methods such as deep plowing.

the soil from erosion and avoiding poor tillage methods such as deep plowing. CE 488 –

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC


Desertification is defined as a process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas due to various factors including climatic variations and human activities. Or, to put it in another way, desertification results in persistent degradation of dryland and fragile ecosystems due to man-made activities and variations in climate. Desertification, in short, is when land that was originally of another type of biome turns into a desert biome because of changes of all sorts. A huge issue that many countries have is the fact that there are large pockets of land that are going through a process that is known as desertification.

Overgrazing is the major cause of desertification worldwide. Other factors that cause desertification include urbanization, climate change, over drafting of ground water, deforestation, natural disasters and tillage practices in agriculture that place soils more vulnerable to wind. Desertification affects topsoil, groundwater reserves, surface runoff, human, animal and plant populations. Water scarcity in drylands limits the production of wood, crops, forage and other services that ecosystems provide to our community.

According to UNESCO, one third of world’s land surface is threatened by desertification and across the world it affects livelihood of millions of people who depend on the benefits of ecosystems that drylands provides. Desertification is another major environmental concern and a major barrier to meeting human basic needs in drylands and are being constantly threatened by increases in human pressures and climatic variability. In this article, we’re going to give you an idea as to what are the causes of desertification, the effects that desertification has, and what we can do in order to deal with the problem at hand. Let’s take a closer look at all of these topics.

at hand. Let’s take a closer look at all of these topics. CAUSES OF DESERTIFICATION 


Overgrazing: Animal grazing is a huge problem for many areas that are starting to become desert biomes. If there are too many animals that are overgrazing in certain spots, it makes it difficult for the plants to grow back, which hurts the biome and makes it lose its former green glory.

Deforestation: When people are looking to move into an area, or they need trees in order to make houses and do other tasks, then they are contributing to the problems related to desertification. Without the plants (especially the trees) around, the rest of the biome cannot thrive.

Farming Practices: Some farmers do not know how to use the land effectively. They may essentially strip the land of everything that it has before moving on to another plot of land. By stripping the soil of its nutrients, desertification becomes more and more of a reality for the area that is being used for farming.

Urbanization and other types of land development. As mentioned above, development can cause people to go through and kill the plant life. It can also cause issues with the soil due to chemicals and other things that may harm the ground. As areas become more urbanized, there are less places for plants to grow, thus causing desertification.

Climate Change: Climate change plays a huge role in desertification. As the days get warmer and periods of drought become more frequent, desertification becomes more and more eminent. Unless climate change is slowed down, huge areas of land will become desert; some of those areas may even become uninhabitable as time goes on.

Stripping the land of resources. If an area of land has natural resources like natural gas, oil, or minerals, people will come in and mine it or take it out. This usually strips the soil of nutrients, which in turn kills the plant life, which in turn starts the process toward becoming a desert biome as time goes on.

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV

Natural Disasters: There are some cases where the land gets damaged because of natural disasters, including drought. In those cases, there isn’t a lot that people can do except work to try and help rehabilitate the land after it has already been damaged by nature.


Farming becomes next to impossible. If an area becomes a desert, then it’s almost impossible to grow substantial crops there without special technologies. This can cost a lot of money to try and do, so many farmers will have to sell their land and leave the desert areas.

Hunger: Without farms in these areas, the food that those farms produce will become much scarcer, and the people who live in those local areas will be a lot more likely to try and deal with hunger problems. Animals will also go hungry, which will cause even more of a food shortage.

Flooding: Without the plant life in an area, flooding is a lot more eminent. Not all deserts are dry; those that are wet could experience a lot of flooding because there is nothing to stop the water from gathering and going all over the place. Flooding can also negatively affect the water supply, which we will discuss next.

Poor Water Quality: If an area becomes a desert, the water quality is going to become a lot worse than it would have been otherwise. This is because the plant life plays a significant role in keeping the water clean and clear; without its presence, it becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to do that.

becomes a lot more difficult for you to be able to do that.  Overpopulation: When

Overpopulation: When areas start to become desert, animals and people will go to other areas where they can actually thrive. This causes crowding and overpopulation, which will, in the long run, end up continuing the cycle of desertification that started this whole thing anyway.

Poverty: All of the issues that we’ve talked about above (related to the problem of desertification) can lead to poverty if it is not kept in check. Without food and water, it becomes harder for people to thrive, and they take a lot of time to try and get the things that they need.


Policy Changes Related to How People can Farm. In countries where policy change will actually be enforced on those in the country, policy change related to how often people can farm and how much they can farm on certain areas could be put into place to help reduce the problems that are often associated with farming and desertification.

Policy Changes to Other Types of Land Use. If people are using land to get natural resources or they are developing it for people to live on, then the policies that govern them should be ones that will help the land to thrive instead of allowing them to harm the land further. The policy changes could be sweeping or they could be depending on the type of land use at hand.

Education: In developing countries, education is an incredibly important tool that needs to be utilized in order to help people to understand the best way to use the land that they are farming on. By educating them on sustainable practices, more land will be saved from becoming desert.

Technology Advances. In some cases, it’s difficult to try and prevent desertification from happening. In those cases, there needs to be research and advancements in technology that push the limits of what we currently know. Advancements could help us find more ways to prevent the issue from becoming epidemic.

Putting Together Rehabilitation Efforts. There are some ways that we can go back and rehabilitate the land that we’ve already pushed into desertification; it just takes some investment of time and money. By putting these together, we can prevent the issue from becoming even more widespread in the areas that have already been affected.

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Sustainable practices to prevent desertification from happening. There are plenty of sustainable practices that can be applied to those acts that may be causing desertification. By adding these to what we should be doing with land, we can ensure that we don’t turn the entire world into a desert.


Integrating land and water management to protect soils from erosion, salinization, and other forms of degradation.

Protecting the vegetative cover, which can be a major instrument for soil conservation against wind and water erosion.

Integrating the use of land for grazing and farming where conditions are favorable, allowing for a more efficient cycling of nutrients within the agricultural systems.

Applying a combination of traditional practices with locally acceptable and locally adapted land use technologies.

Giving local communities the capacity to prevent desertification and to manage dry land resources effectively.

Turning to alternative livelihoods that do not depend on traditional land uses, such as dryland aquaculture, greenhouse agriculture and tourism-related activities, is less demanding on local land and natural resources, and yet provides sustainable income.

natural resources, and yet provides sustainable income.  Creating economic opportunities in dryland urban

Creating economic opportunities in dryland urban centers and in areas outside of drylands

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV


Soil erosion is, at its core, a natural process. Put simply, it is when topsoil, which is the upper-most layer of the ground, is moved from one spot to another. Why this matters is because topsoil is the part of the land that is highest in organic matter and best suited for farming and other fertile activities, which is why soil erosion can have the greatest impact on farmers and agricultural land. In other words, soil erosion is a naturally occurring and slow process that refers to loss of field’s top soil by water and wind or through conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural land. When farming activities are carried out, the top soil is exposed and is often blown away by wind or washed away by rain. When soil erosion occurs, the movement of the detached topsoil is typically facilitated by either a natural process such as wind or water movement or by the impact of man, such as through tilling farmland. The process of soil erosion is made up of three parts:

Detachment: This is when the topsoil is actually “detached” from the rest of the ground.

Movement: This is when the topsoil is relocated to another area.

Deposition: Where the topsoil ends up after this process.


topsoil ends up after this process. TYPES OF SOIL EROSION 1. Sheet erosion  Rainfall on
topsoil ends up after this process. TYPES OF SOIL EROSION 1. Sheet erosion  Rainfall on

1. Sheet erosion

Rainfall on an artificially prepared soil especially on gently sloping fields, generally results in sheet erosion. In this process, many soil grains are pounded loose and made free to float away during the initial stages of rainfall.

This process starts simultaneously over a large area so that after some time during the rains, a huge thick sheet of water flows down the slope and hence it cause erosion of the top soil i.e. uniform skimming of the top soil.

Sheet erosion has been described as dangerous because this erosion cannot recognized easily and thus it may continue for years without being realized.

2. Gully erosion

This signifies formations and evolution of down slope valleys that develop on sloping soil due to continued soil erosion.

Gullying is a consequence of sheet erosion.

Uniform sheet erosion over any surface for longer periods is impossible even on perfectly smooth surfaces because neither the flow velocities over the entire surface could be uniform nor the surface could be 'absolutely' perfect. Hence, rate of erosion along different paths would be different creating conditions for excessive concentrated erosion along some paths.

These paths of excessive erosion eventually develop into gulleys with the passage of time CAUSES OF SOIL EROSION

Soil erosion is a natural process which occur when there is loss of or removal of top layer of soil to due to rain, wind, deforestation or any other human activity. Cause of soil erosion can be broken down into two main categories:

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

1. Erosion by Water

2. Erosion by Wind

1. Erosion by Water

Rainfall Intensity and Runoff: The impact of raindrops will break up the soil and will create runoff and thus takes sediment with it. i.e. More the intensity of rainfall more will be the soil erosion

Distribution of rainfall and landscape: If the ground surface is such that rainfall distributes evenly and if there is no plenty rainfall, then the erosion will be less.

Soil Erodibility: Based on the characteristics of each unique soil, it is more or less susceptible to erosion i.e. Small grain and open structure soil erodes more than the larger grain and closed structure soil.

Ground Slope: The steeper the slope, greater amount of soil can be lost. As the soil erodes downward, it increases the slope degree, which in turn, creates further erosion. Steeper slope ground erodes more than the ground having mild slope due to increased speed of run off than infiltration.

Vegetation: Vegetative cover of plants or crop residues protects the soil from raindrop impact and splash. The less vegetation cover, the more erosion can occur.

Deforestation: It is one of the major factors responsible for Soil erosion. Removal of forest covers which function as a binder of the top layer of the soil, results in enhancing extent of soil erosion.

Mismanaged utilization of soil resources: The soil erosion is enhanced by improper surface drainage, removal of forest litter, overgrazing etc.

surface drainage, removal of forest litter, overgrazing etc. 2. Erosion by Wind  Erodibility of Soil:

2. Erosion by Wind

Erodibility of Soil: The finest particles are transported by the wind, while the heavier particles are blown across the surface causing abrasion.

Soil Surface Roughness: Soil surfaces that are not rough offer little resistance to wind erosion. Excess tillage can contribute to the breakdown of soil.

Climate: Soil moisture levels at the surface can become extremely low in times of drought and thus increase tendency of particles to be carried by the wind. Conversely, this effect can occur in freezing climates as well.

Un-Sheltered Distance: The lack of windbreaks allows wind to transport particles a farther distance, increasing abrasion and erosion.

Vegetative Cover: Lack of permanent vegetation creates loose, dry, and barren soil that is perfect for wind transport.


There are mainly three factors that will be affecting erosion Natural factors:

1. Heavy rains on weak soil: Rain drops loosen soil particles and water transports them

down hill.

2. Vegetation depleted by drought: Rain drops are free to hit the soil, causing erosion during rainfall. Winds blow away the fine particles during droughts.

3. Steep slopes: Gravity pulls harder: water flows faster, soil creeps, slips or slumps downhill.

4. Rain fall: Erosion increases unexpectedly rapidly as rainstorms become more severe.

5. Drought: Water dries up and the soil becomes a play ball of winds. A sudden rain causes enormous damage.

6. Changing winds: Areas previously sheltered, become exposed.

Human-induced factors:

1. Change of land: The land loses its cover, then its soil biota, porosity and moisture.

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV

2. Intensive farming: The plough, excessive fertilizer and irrigation damage the land, often permanently.

3. Housing development: Soil is barred; massive earthworks to landscape the subdivision; soil is on the loose.

Road construction: Roads are cut; massive earth works, leaving scars behind. Not enough attention is paid to rainwater flow and maintenance of road sides.


Predominant causes of soil erosion are either related to naturally-occurring events or influenced by the presence of human activity. Some of the principal causes of soil erosion include:

Natural Causes

Rain and rainwater runoff: In a particular heavy rain, soil erosion is common. First of all, the water starts to break down the soil, dispersing the materials it is made of. Typically, rainwater runoff will impact lighter materials like silt, organic matter, and finer sand particles, but in heavy rainfall, this can also include the larger material components as well.

Farming: When land is worked through crops or other agricultural processes, it reduces the overall structure of the soil, in addition to reducing the levels of organic matter, making it more susceptible to the effects of rain and water. Tilling in particular, because it often breaks up and softens the structure of soil, can be a major contributor to erosion. Farming practices that reduce this activity tend to have far less issues with soil erosion.

activity tend to have far less issues with soil erosion.  Slope of the land: The

Slope of the land: The physical characteristics of the land can also contribute to soil erosion. For example, land with a high hill slope will perpetuate the process of rainwater or runoff saturation in the area, particularly due to the faster movement of the water down a slope.

Lack of vegetation: Plants and crops help maintain the structure of soils, reducing the amount of soil erosion. Areas with less naturally-occurring flora may be a hint that the soil is prone to erosion.

Wind: Wind can be a major factor in reducing soil quality and promotion erosion, particularly if the soil’s structure has already been loosened up. However, lighter winds will typically not cause too much damage, if any. The most susceptible soil to this type of erosion is sandy or lighter soil that can easily be transported through the air. Human-Induced Causes of Soil Erosion

Mining Mining, one of the activities that enabled the growth of our economies, has severely scared the face of our planet and destroyed many unique habitats without mercy. Some of the world’s largest mines cut as deep as 0.75 miles into the earth’s surface and spread over an area of more than 2,000 acres.

Deforestation The rate of erosion in forests is naturally very low because complex root systems of trees anchor the soil in place and fallen leaves or other green material offers a protective cover. But during the deforestation when forests are clear cut or burned down in the ‘slash-and-burn’ practice, soil stability is disturbed. And even though the soil was healthy and resistant prior deforestation, after clearing, it will be easily washed away by rain.

Recreational activities Tourism and recreational activities often damage ecosystems, especially if the number of tourists in a given area is greater than the ecosystem capacity to deal with it. In the most visited places, tourists trample the vegetation around trails, slowly creating larger patches of vegetation free surface. Frequently walked trails become compacted, which leads to the decreased soil permeability and higher surface runoff. The combination of these factors then results in

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

progressively eroding trails and areas around them as people try to avoid slippery or muddy surface of the main trail.

Climate change Climate change comes with many changes for our planet and the environment. One of the most talked about effects of climate change is a changing rainfall pattern. With some areas getting more frequently heavy rains and other areas suffering of prolonged droughts, the risk of erosion is expected to rise around the world. EFFECTS OF SOIL EROSION A major problem with soil erosion is that there is no telling how quickly or slowly it will occur. If largely impacted by ongoing weather or climate events, it may be a slow-developing process that is never even noticed. However, a severe weather occurrence or other experience can contribute to rapid-moving erosion, which can cause great harm to the area and its inhabitants. On-Site Effects of Erosion Some of the greatest effects of soil erosion include:

Loss of topsoil: Obviously, this is the biggest effect of soil erosion. Because topsoil is so fertile, if it is removed, this can cause serious harm to farmer’s crops or the ability to effectively work their land.

Soil compaction: When soil under the topsoil becomes compacted and stiff, it reduces the ability for water to infiltrate these deeper levels, keeping runoff at greater levels, which increases the risk of more serious erosion.

levels, which increases the risk of more serious erosion.  Reduced organic and fertile matter: As

Reduced organic and fertile matter: As mentioned, removing topsoil that is heavy with organic matter will reduce the ability for the land to regenerate new flora or crops. When new crops or plants can’t be placed successfully in the area, this perpetuates a cycle of reduced levels of organic nutrients.

Poor drainage: Sometimes too much compaction with sand can lead to an effective crust that seals in the surface layer, making it even harder for water to pass through to deeper layers. In some ways, this can help erosion because of the densely packed soil, but if it perpetuates greater levels of runoff from rainwater or flooding, it can negatively impact the crucial topsoil.

Issues with plant reproduction: When soil is eroded in an active cropland, wind in particular makes lighter soil properties such as new seeds and seedlings to be buried or destroyed. This, in turn, impacts future crop production.

Soil acidity levels: When the structure of the soil becomes compromised, and organic matter is greatly reduced, there is a higher chance of increased soil acidity, which will significantly impact the ability for plants and crops to grow.

Long term erosion: Unfortunately, if an area is prone to erosion or has a history of it, it becomes even harder to protect it in the future. The process has already reduced the soil structure and organic matter of the area, meaning that it will be harder to recover in the long run.

Water pollution: A major problem with runoff from soils particularly those used for agricultural processes is that there is a greater likelihood that sediment and contamination like the use of fertilizer or pesticide. This can have significant damage on fish and water quality. Off-Site Effects of Erosion

Water pollution and sedimentation The major off-site problem caused by erosion is the deposition of eroded soil, along with pollutants it picked up, into watercourses. This causes two serious problems:

2. Sedimentation in water bodies

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV

Besides introducing new pollutants in the water, soil transported into water bodies disrupts aquatic ecosystems by changing chemical and physical properties of water. Agricultural fertilizers can cause eutrophication and mass dying of aquatic life. Increasing sediment loads can block rivers and dams, eventually leading to mud floods and further damage to surrounding ecosystems and built structures. High sedimentation rates also damage hydro-electricity plants and decrease the lifetime of constructed water reservoirs. Additional problem is the pollution of drinking water supply, which requires extra investment into removing impurities and making water suitable for drinking again.

Flooding The deposition of silt in water courses often obstructs their natural path. This increases the risk of flooding and further enhances erosion of water banks, since the water seeks the way to flow around a newly created obstruction. Disturbed soils also do not absorb water as much as they naturally would. Deforested areas turn into arable lands or overgrazed pastures lose their ability to effectively capture and retain water. Higher surface runoff then swells water streams to bigger size and floods become more frequent and extensive even in areas where they haven’t occurred ever before.

Airborne dust pollution Wind erosion has the power to cause widespread air pollution that can affect places hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the original site of erosion. There are numerous cases describing its suffocating effects. Wind-blown dust particles do not harm only the health of people and animals; they also damage young plants and crops. Wind often picks up fine particles of sand, silt and organic matter and buries or breaks seedlings, while exposing seeds or plant roots in other places. This leaves behind weak and vulnerable crops that cannot provide sufficient yield.

and vulnerable crops that cannot provide sufficient yield. Damage to infrastructure Whether it is a damage

Damage to infrastructure Whether it is a damage caused by flooded rivers, roads and rails torn apart by sliding land or dams cracking under the burden of accumulating sediments, soil erosion can gradually and certainly somewhat sneakily destroy many built structures. In fact, to predict the future rate of erosion when planning a new construction project is extremely difficult, since there are so many possible triggers. SOLUTIONS FOR SOIL EROSION

When it comes to finding solutions for soil erosion, the most useful techniques found tend to be those that emphasize reinforcing the structure of the soil, and reducing processes that affect it.

Careful tilling: Because tilling activity breaks up the structure of soil, doing less tilling with fewer passes will preserve more of the crucial topsoil.

Crop rotation: Plenty of crop rotation is crucial for keeping land happy and healthy. This allows organic matter to build up, making future plantings more fertile.

Increased structure for plants: Introducing terraces or other means of stabilizing plant life or even the soil around them can help reduce the chance that the soil loosens and erodes. Boosting areas that are prone to erosion with sturdy plant life can be a great way to stave off future effects.

Water control: For those areas where soil erosion is predominantly caused by water whether natural or man-made specialized chutes and runoff pipes can help to direct these water sources away from the susceptible areas, helping stave off excess erosion. Having these filters in particular areas rather than leading to natural bodies of water is a focus to reduce pollution.

Increased knowledge: A major factor for preventing soil erosion is educating more and more people who work with the land on why it is a concern, and what they can do to help

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

reduce it. This means outreach to farmers in susceptible areas for ways that they can help protect crops from inclement weather, or ways that they can help make sure their soil remains compact without restricting their plant growing activities. PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF SOIL EROSION

Methods adopted for prevention and control of soil erosion fall under two categories: agronomic practices and engineering practices.

Agronomic Practices

By agronomic practice it means the protection of the top soil by special methods and schemes of crop cultivation.

These include:


Crop Rotation

In which different crops are grown in the same area by rotation, that is, one after another.

A sequence commonly followed is, for example, a cultivated crop, a small grain and then grass. After this, cultivated crop may again be sown.


Strip Cropping



In which the cultivated crops and the cover crops are sown in alternate strips during the same period in the same field. Engineering Practices

same period in the same field. Engineering Practices  The engineering methods most widely used for
same period in the same field. Engineering Practices  The engineering methods most widely used for

The engineering methods most widely used for combating soil erosion include:

Excavation of ditches

These can be described as artificially created channels excavated at suitable locations to divert the excess of water from approaching the affected areas, especially in steeply sloping regions.

Two types of ditches commonly made for controlling soil erosion are:



Diversion Ditches which are excavated above the cultivated portion of a sloping area with a view of diverting the run off away from the field.

Interception Ditches These are made at regular and suitable intervals across the cultivated field. By draining water from small strips, these ditches do not allow the formation of thick sheets of water capable of doing soil erosion.

Terrace Construction

These are constructed along suitable locations across the slope of hillsides with essential function of collecting and conducting the run-off to an erosion-proof outlet.

Spacing of terraces along the slope requires careful consideration. First terrace is generally built near enough to the upper limit of the slope.

This prevents the initiation of erosion. Terraces should always be uniformly graded as to prevent ponding of water on the one hand and development of erosional velocities on the other hand.

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC

Module IV

Dept. of Civil Engineering, MEAEC Module IV (iii) Check Dams.  Small check dams constructed out

(iii) Check Dams.

Small check dams constructed out of various materials like stones, timber and steel etc. prevent gullying.

Such dams serve the purpose of reducing the velocity of run-off and cause deposition of the material which may ultimately support vegetation. This may contribute positively for controlling gullying, especially when vegetation is re-established.

gullying, especially when vegetation is re-established. ******************************* Prepared By NAJEEB. M


Prepared By


Assistant Professor Dept. of Civil Engineering MEA Engineering College