Land and soil

There are around 1.5 billion hectares of arable land on Earth. Most of the agricultural land is currently being cultivated. On average, each person on Earth had a share of 0.41 ha of cropland in 1961 but only 0.23 ha in 2002, despite the increase in arable land surface by 10% during that period of 40 years. The surface of irrigated land accounted for 20% of the total arable area in 2002. By 2050, it is estimated that the world average environmental space for arable land is around 0.19 ha per person.

The environmental space for arable land decreases not only in quantity but also in quality. Around 30 million hectares of irrigated land are severely degraded by sali-nization and around 80 million hectares more are affected by water logging.

The uneven distribution of environmental space when it comes to land resources is also reflected by other types of land use. In urban areas, housing and living space became scarcer as the urban population increased fast during recent decades. It is estimated that in Asia, 40% of the urban population lives in slums; meanwhile, in industrialized countries, around 7% of people do not have acceptable quality of shelters.

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