Economics of salt-induced land degradation and restoration

A report from the UN and the CGIAR consortium reveals that land degradation due to salt build-up is causing damages in some 75 countries, estimated at more than US$27 billion per year. The study, carried out by the UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), states that about 62 million hectares are impacted by salt-induced land degradation. The process is, according to the report, triggered by irrigation without drainage management. The report takes particular note of the Aral Sea basin, the Indo-Gangetic basin, and the Indus basin, among others. According to the study's authors, the goal of increasing food production by 70% by 2050 to feed an estimated nine billion people will be almost impossible to reach if arid and semi-arid areas continue to lose productivity on about 2,000 hectares of productive land per day. The study also presents ways to reserve land degradation and restore productivity including through tree planting, deep plowing, cultivation of salt-tolerant crops, mixing harvested plant residues into topsoil and digging drains.