Soil erosion is described as the carrying away of soil.
It is the theft of the soil by natural elements like water, wind, glacier and wave.
Gravity tends to move soil down slope either very slowly as in soil creep or very rapidly as in landslides.
There are many physical and social factors which determine the extent and severity of soil erosion.
The principal physical factors are erosivity of rainfall, erodibility of soil, severity of periodic floods, length and steepness of the slope.
The important social factors are deforestation, overgrazing, nature of land use and methods of cultivation.
Ravines, gullies and landslides are most serious and highly visible forms of land erosion.
On the other hand, sheet erosion caused by rains and erosion due to winds are least visible but equally serious.
Soil erosion by ravines and gullies is widespread in India, It has been estimated that 3.67 million hectares of soil surface is damaged.
There are four major areas of ravines and gullies in India.
 Yumuna-Chambal ravine zone,
 Gujarat ravine zone,
 The Punjab Siwalik foothills zone and
 Chhota nagpur zone.
There are other areas of substantial ravine erosion in the Mahanadi valley, upper Son valley, upper Narmada and Tapi valleys, Siwalik and Bhabar tract of the western Himalayan foothills and edges of Ganga Khadar in western Uttar Pradesh.
The relatively less affected areas are whole of Deccan south of the Godavari, the Ganga-Brahmputra plains, east of Varanasi, Kutchchh and western Rajasthan.
Sheet erosion is widespread over sloping deforested terrain, unterraced uplands of peninsular region, Sutlej-Ganga plains, Coastal plains, Western Ghats and North- Eastern hills.
The occurrence of landslides is common in earthquake sensitive belts, particularly the Siwaliks.
Heavy rainfall and cutting of slopes for roads, buildings and mining activities trigger landslides.
In the last 50 years, the Rajasthan desert has encroached upon 13000 hectares of land in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Glacial erosion is limited to high Himalayas and sea erosion is confined to coastal areas only.
Soil erosion and soil exhaustion due to loss of soil nutrients pose serious threats to our efforts of increasing the productivity of soil faster than the population growth.
Methods by which soil is prevented from being eroded constitute soil conservation.
This is possible by improved agricultural practices in different regions.
Contour ploughing and terracing are generally practised on the hill slopes.
Rows of trees or shelter belts are planted to protect the fields in desert regions from wind erosion.
Afforestation of the catchment areas and slopes in the Himalayas, the Upper Damodar valley in Jharkhand and the Nilgiri hills in the south has been implemented.
It reduces the surface runoff and binds the soil.
Ravines are noted for their enormous size and depth with vertical sides.
The Central Soil Conservation Board has established 3 research stations:  Kota in Rajasthan,  Agra in Uttar Pradesh and  Valsad in Gujarat to suggest methods of reclamation of ravine lands.
Overgrazing by sheep, goat and other livestock has been partly responsible for soil erosion.
Erosion due to these factors has been reported from Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka.
Soil exhaustion can be prevented by the application of manure and fertilisers.