What is Land Reclamation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The term “land reclamation” is used to describe two different activities. In the first sense, it involves modifying wetlands or waterways to convert them into usable land, usually for the purpose of development. It can also be a process in which damaged land is restored to its natural state. In both cases, the term is used to refer to some sort of process that is designed to fundamentally alter the characteristics of a piece of land to achieve a desired end goal.

Filling in wetlands and waterways so that they can be used for other purposes is one form of land reclamation.
Filling in wetlands and waterways so that they can be used for other purposes is one form of land reclamation.

The practice of filling in wetlands and waterways to make more land is ancient. Humans tend to settle near water, since they need it to survive, and because waterways can be used as a method of transportation for people and goods. As human settlements grow, the pressure on the existing land also grows, and people may start to expand outwards by filling in the surrounding area. Land reclamation has historically been accomplished with garbage and other landfill material, making reclaimed areas highly unstable and prone to developing sinkholes.

Land reclamation is used in regions that experience desertification, with the goal of turning arid land into farmland.
Land reclamation is used in regions that experience desertification, with the goal of turning arid land into farmland.

Reclaimed land can also be quite expensive, since it is located close to the water in areas that are appealing to many settlers. People may be willing to pay a premium for reclaimed land, especially if they used to live and do business by the shoreline and the reclamation has pushed their property inland. In some regions of the world, this process happened so long ago that people are not aware that they are living and doing business on land that was created by artificial means.

Land reclamation is also used to repair environmental damage. For example, if a beach becomes severely eroded, beach nourishment may be used to restore the beach, a method designed to preserve the existing natural environment. Land reclamation is also used in regions that experience desertification, with the goal of turning arid land into farmland. Regions like Southern California were settled after reclamation made the land usable, while in parts of Africa and Asia where the desert is expanding, the process is used to keep human communities intact.

Environmentalists use a version to repair land that has been subjected to some form of environmental damage. For example, heavily polluted land may be put on a land reclamation plan that is designed to remove the pollutants and promote the re-establishment of native plant and animal species. Damaged wetlands, including those that have been filled to make usable land, can also be reclaimed through a slow environmental remediation process.

Land reclamation may be used to repair environmental damage on a beach.
Land reclamation may be used to repair environmental damage on a beach.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ValleyFiah

@ Glassaxe - I live in Phoenix, and there is a great city park that was created in Chandler. The park used to be a landfill and was recently reclaimed. Because of the site of the park, only certain plants are permitted, and not all types of activities are appropriate. Sports fields and basketball courts will not work at the site because they are too heavy and use grass. The park does have a beautiful disc golf course though, and an archery range. These are things that are not found at most parks. There is also a giant burner that burns off the methane, but surprisingly you can't smell it at all.

GlassAxe

Land reclamation plans are also required for most mining and waste management operations. Strip mining, mountaintop mining, and open pit mining are very destructive to the environment. In these situations runoff has to be controlled as well as other environmental contaminants.

Once mining operations have ceased, mining companies are responsible for returning the mines to their natural state. Certain types of plants are introduced to warn of chemical leaching and habitats are restored; all with the hopes of allowing displaced wildlife to return. Since most mineral mining is done on state and federal land, this type of land reclamation is mandatory.

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