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Soil and water, a source of life” 

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World Soil Day is celebrated every year on December 05 with the aim of protecting and sustainably managing soil resources by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Recommendations made by the International Union of Soil Science on the observance of this day were approved by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2013. Also, the celebration of this day has been approved by the 68th United Nations General Assembly held in December 2013. Since the first Soil Day celebration in 2014, the Global Soil Partnership has contributed to soil conservation efforts every year since then, by bringing together soil experts and enthusiasts. Accordingly, every year World Soil Day is celebrated around the world with different themes. The theme of World Soil Day 2023 is "Soil and water, a source of life".

Activities undertaken by Ministry of Environment to celebrate World Soil Day 2023

Soil and water provide the foundation for food production, ecosystems and human well-being. Recognizing their invaluable role, we can take proactive steps to secure these resources for future generations.

Providing financial support for the knowledge measurement competition and art competition held by the Sri Lanka Soil Science Association focusing on school students in the North Central Province on the basis of the World Soil Day.

Based on this year's Soil Day celebration, the Sri Lanka Soil Science Association has planned to hold a program to educate school children about the contribution of soil to food security as well as its contribution to sustaining soil life. In this program, a knowledge measurement competition has been held to educate school children about the importance of soil in the districts of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the North Central Province and arrangements have been made to award prizes to three winning schools. Also, a drawing competition will be held among the school children of North Central province and the winners will be selected. Financial support for this is provided by the Healthy Landscape Project implemented under the Ministry of Environment and the South Asian Cooperation Environmental Program (SACEP).

The importance of soil and water to the foundation of life

The survival of our planet depends on the precious relationship between soil and water. More than 95% of our food comes from these two basic resources. Soil water holds our ecosystems together, essential for nutrient uptake by plants. This symbiotic relationship is the foundation of our agricultural systems.

However, in the face of climate change and human activities, our soil is being degraded, putting great pressure on our water resources. Erosion disrupts the natural balance, reducing runoff and availability for all forms of life.

Soil is recognized as one of the world's most vulnerable resources. Although the soil is protected due to the forests and plants located on this soil, human activities such as removal of plants for agricultural purposes, planting of crops and application of fertilizers and other agrochemicals to the crops, water supply activities are the causes of soil degradation. Not only in Sri Lanka, but globally, it can be seen how soil erosion, depletion of soil fertility, acidification and salinity have caused soil erosion in the lands used for agriculture. As a whole, about 50% of Sri Lanka's agricultural land is subjected to soil erosion and it is the main soil degradation process.

Soil is considered the largest terrestrial carbon pool and plays a unique role in global carbon balancing by regulating dynamic biochemical processes and exchanging greenhouse gases with the atmosphere. It is estimated that the top one meter of soil contains 1460 billion tons of carbon, which is more than twice the amount of carbon stored in the atmosphere and vegetation.

Sustainable soil management requires global soil recarbonisation. If not, the rapidity of climate change is a phenomenon that the world will soon see. By imparting scientific and local knowledge to the farmers involved in agriculture, the balance of the soil will be protected by adopting a sustainable soil management system suitable for the country.

Sustainable soil management practices, such as minimum tillage, crop rotation, organic matter addition, and cover cropping, improve soil health, reduce erosion and pollution, and improve water infiltration and storage. These practices protect soil biodiversity, improve fertility and contribute to carbon sequestration, playing a critical role in the fight against climate change.

At present, many challenges of soil degradation such as soil erosion, soil pollution and salinization are being faced globally. Due to this, the survival of ecosystems as well as food security has been severely affected. In order to reduce these effects and increase the productivity of agricultural lands, reduce natural disasters such as landslides and floods, and reduce the filling of reservoirs and other internal reservoirs in hydropower plants, soil conservation activities in Sri Lanka should be done in a better way than before.

World Soil Day 2023 (WSD) and its campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance and relationship between soil and water in achieving sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. WSD is a unique global platform that not only celebrates soil but also empowers and engages citizens around the world to improve soil health.

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