Land rehabilitation is the process or restoring damaged land to near its original condition. The original source of the damage, man-made or natural, isn’t important in the long run; although it does affect the rehabilitation methods used. In most cases, the land cannot be returned to its natural state. Since it is usually impossible to return an area to its exact original condition, land rehabilitation simply focuses on improving the land as much as possible.
Land rehabilitation isn’t as simple as it may seem. Some things that seem to cause a lot of damage have very little impact, while other things are devastating. One of the biggest challenges of land rehabilitation is cleaning poison from the ground. Many man-made sites come along with poisons used for various things. Cleaning these from the land is a time-consuming and difficult undertaking.
Natural disasters are usually quite low on the list of things that damage land. For all their destruction, most natural disasters have a very low impact on the quality of the land. That being said, occasionally, damage will occur because of human intervention. For instance, a flood can gather up harmful chemicals from entering homes and factories which will then enter the water system.
Forestry also has a very low impact on the viability of land. While many people view cutting down trees as harmful, this isn’t necessarily the case. The modern forestry techniques of selective cutting and replanting have minimized that industry’s impact on land quality. Since forestry doesn’t use harmful chemicals or cause deep soil disruption, they have eliminated two of the common secondary land damages as well.
Modern open pit mining has a severe impact on the land. The steps of land rehabilitation related to this industry vary, but they follow a general order. First, they attempt to clean any harmful chemicals that may be in the ground or rocks from the site. Next, they fill in the holes with clean rocks and soil, using removed material if possible. Finally, they contour the land to a natural state and plant natural vegetation. This can be a very long and exhausting process.
Farming is a major cause of land rehabilitation. Farms often use deadly chemicals that can soak into the local water supply. In addition, over-irrigation raises the salinity in the topsoil, rendering it unable to grow anything. Solving these two problems is a major part of land rehabilitation, and there has only been limited success. Modern farms have begun to move away from the particularly harmful practices, but the older farms remain a problem.