KILLING THE GOOSE (Land Resources) THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS
Land is the basic resource of a Nation. Economic stability and wise use of land are inseparable. The future of our country and its teaming millions depend to a large extent on the conservation of our land resources.
Our national father Mahatma Gandhiji once said, “Nature can provide everybody’s need. But it cannot provide everybody’s greed”. This is true with regard to our natural resources getting extinct day by day by the increasing population of our country and the biotic interferences mostly by man and his cattle.
Vegetation plays an important role in soil and water conservation. In any system of sound land use, it is essential that excessively steep slopes, such as usually prevail about the head quarters of numerous streams be kept in some form of dense cover, preferably forest, grass or legumes. Trees make the most adaptable protective cover for vast areas of mountain and hill country, where it is not easy to establish and maintain an adequate cover of grass. Grass is the proper form of vegetation to use in those areas which are not climatically or otherwise suited to rapid tree growth, but which are well suited to grass. Shrubs and combinations of trees and shrubs have highly important place under special conditions in the control of run-off and erosion.
Vegetative cover plays a four-fold in erosion control.
- By the canopy that the tree affords it reduces the impact of rain drops and subsequent dislodging of the soil.
- The velocity of water flowing over the land is reduced considerably by the hindrance caused to the flow of water by the stems and roots of plants.
- The plant roots produce a binding effect on soil particles, thus preventing their transportation along the water current.
- The organic matter that is added to the soil in the form of plant residues helps in promoting better structural conditions and biological activity, both of which prevent the erosion of soil and water.
Forests are an important form of national wealth. They are not merely a source of state revenue, they are of basic value as yielding various much needed materials for the people, such as timber, firewood and fodder. There is an enormous requirement of forest produce from industries. Besides a large variety of other forest products, they also afford considerable part time or whole time employment especially to rural people in the neighborhood. Of even greater significance are the protective functions of forests which help to regulate stream flow, influence local climate, moderate the intensity of floods and conserve the soil from loss by erosion. It is now common knowledge that forests help in the conservation of soil fertility and play an important part in the maintenance of the water regime in the locality. Forests protect flat lands from desiccation and wind erosion. Even tree growth in the form of roadside avenues, farm hedges, shelter belts, etc., can exert a beneficial influence on the locality. Forests are also able to recycle the nutrients effectively. It has been estimated that with perennial vegetation mainly with trees, at least three quarters of the earth could supply human needs, not only for food but of clothing, fuel, shelter and other basic products. At the same time, wild life could be conserved, pollution decreased and the beauty of many landscapes enhanced with consequent moral, spiritual and cultural benefits.
The role of vegetation in soil and water conservation is vital. It takes nature up to 200 years or even more to form one centimeter depth of soil by weathering action. But in just five years, this soil is lost by man made erosion. Among man’s actions of vegetation followed by wasteful methods of soil management and grazing the bare surface. Wind and water are the chief agents of soil erosion. Along with the top soil, the loss of which is estimated to be around 6,000 million tons per year, the humus and nutrients to the tune of 6 million tons are also lost.
Destroying the priceless plant and animal wealth will amount to killing the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs. Such denudation and the resultant soil erosion pose a grave danger to our future. Floods and droughts are caused by thoughtless destruction of perennial vegetation. In our zeal to bring more land under the plough, it is not fair to disturb the delicate balance of nature. New forest belts are to be created and maintained in perpetuity. Continued management and preservation of this vegetation which is part of our national heritage and “the savior of soil and water” in a systematic and scientific manner on soil conservation principles will certainly give rise to economic prosperity, a healthy environment and a better quality of life to the people in particular and for the good of the nation in general.
“If we tamper with nature, nature will destroy us”
Dr. P. Sam Raj
(Former Principal Scientist (Forestry) & Head CSWCRTI, ICAR,Ooty,Nilgiris) Natural Resource Management (NRM)
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