Regenerating Nagaland’s Lifeline: A Call to Action for Soil Restoration

Wokha: Average soil loss in Nagaland per hectare per year is approx 30.62 tonnes, compared to national average of 10.2 tonnes

BY | Tuesday, 4 June, 2024

The author is Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF), Wokha Forest Division, Nagaland


Soil is the foundation of life on land. Healthy soil acts like a sponge, storing water and nutrients for plants. It also teems with life, breaking down organic matter and releasing vital elements. Fertile soil bestows on us nutritious food, healthy forests, and clean water.

Formation of soil is an excruciatingly slow process. It is estimated that it takes between 100 to 400 years to form one centimetre of top soil. On the other hand, soil erosion happens swiftly in just a single storm or over a few years. About 70% of Nagaland’s land area is prone to soil erosion, with the Eastern Himalayas being one of the most erosion-prone regions in the state.

In Nagaland, the average soil loss per hectare per year is approximately 30.62 tonnes. This is significantly higher than the national average of 10.2 tonnes per hectare per year.

Main reasons for soil erosion are the altered nature of jhum cultivation with reducing number of fallow years due to increase in population pressure; deforestation of hitherto untouched forests for agriculture, timber and mining; heavy rainfall combined with steep slopes leading to high rate of surface runoff; and inadequate soil conservation practices.

The most prominent effects of soil erosion are land degradation, which alters the natural landscape of Nagaland, causing loss of fertile land, and resulting in food insecurity; reduction in water tables which affect the availability of water for irrigation, drinking, and other uses; and damage of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, leading to significant economic losses. It is also cause for triggering landslides and slope instability, which can lead to loss of life and property. It can lead to loss of biodiversity, as the natural habitats of flora and fauna are destroyed or degraded.

Soil conservation and restoration requires a multi-pronged approach which include measures like promotion of traditional soil conservation techniques with infusion of scientific research such as Zabo, and Modified Echo, promotion of Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT), Revitalization of Jhum practices with longer fallow periods, mixed cropping systems and composting, People led reforestation of wastelands through plantation drives and creation of infrastructure with a purpose i.e., Building of roads, bridges and other infrastructure with proper drainage systems and erosion control structures so that life of the structures can be maximized and soil loss minimized.

The theme of World Environment Day 2024 is “Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience”. By embracing these solutions, Nagaland can not only combat soil erosion but also contribute significantly to the global fight against climate change. Healthy soil acts as a powerful carbon sink, storing atmospheric carbon and mitigating its warming effects. World Environment Day serves as a powerful reminder that we are all stewards of the land. By actively restoring and protecting Nagaland’s precious soil, we can secure a thriving future for generations to come.


D Rajiv Shankar, IFS

Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF)

Wokha Forest Division


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