Soil Degradation Neglected Crisis in Iran

By Maysam Bizaer, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Soil and water are natural resources pivotal to the survival of any country. They constitute the key elements of agriculture, which no one doubts is important. Experts say that soil is even more important than water because the latter is recoverable but the first is not. They argue that it is crucial to preserve soil, as the formation of each centimeter of soil takes hundreds of years to produce.

Back in 2013, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization named 2015 the International Year of Soils to “raise awareness on the importance of sustainable soil management.” In this vein, the years 2015-2024 were named the International Decade of Soils. But this is at the international level; all governments must take their own measures for soil conservation. Following suit, Iran has also adopted policies and taken measures in recent years to preserve its soil resources, which are not in proper condition.

Iran is a dry country covering a land area of almost 165 million hectares. Of this, only 50 million hectares are arable — but less than two-fifths (18 million hectares) are currently used for agricultural purposes, while water scarcity has made the rest unusable. Regrettably, the limited soil resources are threatened with contamination, as pesticides and fertilizers are used excessively, while industrial pollutants and the use of salty water degrade soil and make it less nutrient-rich.

Another factor that poses serious threats to soil resources in Iran is erosion, but not the type of erosion that is natural. In Iran, soil erosion occurs at a fast pace under certain elements that can be divided into natural causes (wind and water) and those resulting from human activity. As most parts of Iran are dry, high winds blow away soil while water erodes soil in mountainous areas, particularly on slopes.

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