The part of the earth’s surface that is not covered by water is called land. Land is an important natural resource and covers around 30% of the earth’s total area.
Population distribution depends on the land characteristics and the climatic features of a place. Low-lying areas that have a rugged terrain, steep slopes, a desert or thick forests do not attract heavy population.
Plains and river valleys are densely populated because they offer suitable land for agriculture, apart from more moderate climatic conditions. Land is used for agriculture, forestry, mining, building houses, roads and setting up various industries. Some pieces of land are good for agriculture, while others are suitable for erecting buildings.
Land use depends on factors like topography, soil, climatic conditions, presence of mineral reserves and the availability of drinking water. A piece of land is either owned by an individual or by a community. Land owned by an individual person is called private land. Land that is owned collectively by a community is called community land.
Number of houses, malls and commercial complexes are encroaching on the common land. Agriculture is expanding into rural areas. This is denuding common areas of forests and arable land, which are vital natural resources. Landslides, soil erosion, land degradation and desertification are becoming major threats to the environment because of this pressure on land.
Planting more trees is one way to help restore the forest cover. This process is known as afforestation. Land reclamation is another method of land conservation. For farmers, an important measure is to check and regulate the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and prevent overgrazing.
When rock, debris or loose earth move down a slope in a huge mass, it is termed as a landslide. A landslide caused by prolonged heavy rainfall can block the path of a river. These river blocks, when they burst, can lead to floods in the settlements downstream.
To curb landslides, it is important to protect the forest cover in hilly regions. Tree roots hold soil and rocks in place, and are thus effective in preventing soil from sliding down a slope. Some measures to control damage from landslides:
- Identify landslide-prone areas through hazard mapping and avoid building houses in such regions.
- Build retention walls to stop land from slipping. The city of Anaheim in California, USA, located in a landslide-prone area, uses retention walls.
- Increase vegetation cover to curb landslides.
Build surface water drainage control systems. This will help regulate the movement of landslides along with rain water and spring flows.