Nearly 7,000 contaminated sites have been identified by the Kuwait Oil Company. Part of the land is now to be remediated through the SEED project.
Photo: B. Bordoloi


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Throughout the world, demands on finite soil resources are ever increasing, and can lead to irreversible soil degradation, as the soil is used beyond its “bio-capacity”. A quarter of the inhabitated land area has already been affected by human-induced soil degradation. Against this background, soil remediaton is becoming more and more important. Focusing on the rehabilitation of oil-contaminated soil in Kuwait, the following article shows how it works, and where the problems lie.

Soils and soil biodiversity are the foundation of all terrestrial production systems that generate ecosystem services such as the provision of food, fodder, fibre, clean water and control of greenhouse gases and crop pests. Soil contains an enormous diversity of organisms. Soil biodiversity represents a vast gene pool of potential value to humans, including new antibiotics and use in industrial goods. Soil biota contributes to the delivery of all soil functions and is responsible for global cycles of carbon, water and nutrients.

But this precious resource is always at risk from degradation – by erosion, salinity, contamination, nutrient depletion, desertification, deforestation, overgrazing and other results of mismanagement. Some 17 per cent of the Earth’s land surface has already been strongly degraded, and the area affected is still growing. Soil degradation ranks amongst the greatest environmental challenges, impacting soil micro flora, water, biodiversity and emission of greenhouse gases. The magnitude of this threat starts from local level, but has global implications, bringing in social and political instability and threatening pro-poor growth and food production.

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