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Suffering the Scourge of Salt

Updated on August 18, 2009

Salt is essential to human and animal life. It makes up 1 percent of our body. We use it in the food, medicines and livestock feed. In fact, the world consumes some 190 million tons of salt each year, the most common form of salt is sodium chloride, and other important salts are potassium chloride and ammonium nitrate. But this useful and abundant substance is becoming a scourge to some of the world's most productive farmland.

Some 40 percent of the global food harvest comes from the 15 percent of the world's cultivated land that is irrigated. Indeed, channeling water onto seemingly barren land can make it blossom like the proverbial rose. But irrigation can lead to a buildup of salt residue in the soil, resulting in a slow poisoning of the ground. Already crop production in stunted by salinization on half of all irrigated land in the world. Indeed, an area more than twice the size of Switzerland is said to be lost every year as result of salinization and water logging!

In the book OUT OF THE EARTH, Daniel Hillel, a prominent soil scientist, sounds this warning:" Each and every one of the insidious man induced scourge that play so crucial a role in the deaths of past civilizations has its mirror image in our contemporary world, but on an ever larger scale." Salinity is already said to be costing the U.S economy five billion dollars a year in crop losses. Yet, there are few places on earth where this man-induced scourge is more menacing than Australia.

The White Death: Each hour, the vast wheat fields of the Western Australia are losing an area the size of one football field to salinization. Dr. Tom Hatton of the Commonwealth Scientific (CSIRO) says:" Without question that is the largest environmental crisis we face."

The agricultural heartland of eastern Australia, known as the Murray-Darling Basin, is especially vulnerable to salinization. The basin covers an area as large as France and Spain combined, and it contains three quarters of Australia's irrigated land. Close to half of Australia's irrigated land. Close to half of Australia irrigated land. Close to half of Australia's total Agricultural earnings come from here. The Murray and Darling rivers, the arteries the feed this agricultural heartland, nurture thousands of wetland areas and supply drinking water for three million people. Thanks you for reading this article, my next article will focus on the Source of Salt. Hope to see you back.


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