What Is Land Reclamation?

Land reclamation refers to the process of making land useful by restoring it from wetlands, seas, lakes, deserts or mines, through drainage or irrigation. It also refers to the restoration of land that is damaged by natural phenomena, such as erosion, or impaired by industrial and urban processes.

Land reclamation is aimed at increasing the amount of land that is available and suitable for economic activities, such as farming. For example, the U.S. government, through the Bureau of Reclamation, implements large-scale irrigation projects to reclaim arid and semi-arid areas for farming. Large parts of Bangladesh and the Netherlands were also reclaimed from swamps, marshes, lakes and the sea. Wetlands are reclaimed by filling them with rocks and clay. In wetlands, land reclamation also contributes to mosquito control. It is also used to return land to its original state. For instance, it is used to restore beaches that are impaired by natural processes by filling them with sand and retaining their natural look. Population growth contributes to an increase of landfills, which can be reclaimed for use as parks, sports fields and office buildings. However, land reclamation is associated with some dangers, such as flooding and soil liquefaction. Environmental-protection laws limit the implementation of land-reclamation projects that are likely to destroy natural habitats.