Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 37, Issue 1–3, pp 347–363 | Cite as

Desertification in Russia: Problems and solutions (an example in the Republic of Kalmykia-Khalmg Tangch)

  • Igor S. Zonn


During the second half of the 20th century Kalmykia has undergone severe desertification. Under Soviet rule, rangelands were increasingly devoted to animal production, and pastures were converted to cropland in a campaign to increase crops. Pastures were grazed two to three times their sustainable production, saiga populations and habitat greatly decreased, more than 17 million ha were subjected to wind erosion, 380,000 ha were transformed into moving sands, and 106,000 ha were ruined by secondary salinization and waterlogging. By the 1990s almost 80% of the Republic had undergone desertification, and 13% had been transformed into a true desert. In 1986 the General Scheme of Desertification Control was formulated. The scheme called for rotating pastures, reclaiming blown sand using silviculture, tilling overgrazed pastures and sowing fodder plants, and developing water supplies for pastures. In its early years the scheme has been successful. But the management of restored pastures usually reverts to the same farms responsible for the poor conditions, and there is great apprehension that degradation could reoccur. This case study concludes that the general cattle and agriculture development in Kalmykia is unviable for ecological and economic reasons, that Kalmykia should implement an adaptive policy oriented toward conservation and accommodating the interrelation and variability of land resources, that the desertification problem can be solved only by changing agrarian policy as a whole, and that a desertification control program must become an integral part of economic and social development of the Republic.


Animal Production Poor Condition Wind Erosion Land Resource Economic Reason 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor S. Zonn
    • 1
  1. 1.Russian National Committee for the United Nations Environment ProgrammeMoscowRussia

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