Great Green Wall Receives Over $10billion To Regreen The Sahel-France

World Bank Listed Among Donors

Bonn/Paris, January 11, 2021 –  The ambitious Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative (GGW) has received at least 10billion* United States Dollars in new funding. The funding will fast track efforts to restore degrading land, save biological diversity as well as create green jobs and build resilience of the Sahelian people.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, made the announcement at the just concluded One Planet Summit for Biodiversity co-organized by France, the United Nations and World Bank.

The GGW snakes along the southern margin of Africa’s Sahara Desert running from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea. The Great Green Wall Accelerator makes up 30 per cent of 33 billion United States Dollars needed to achieve the Great Green Wall’s ambitions for the year 2030.

Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, President of Mauritania and current chair of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, welcomed the Accelerator program on behalf of the region. 
“We welcome the announcement of the Great Green Wall Accelerator Initiative, whose objective is to release an initial contribution over the period 2021-2025, to give effect to the commitments of the financial partners in a coordinated framework,” said Ghazouani.

“The mobilization of this additional funding through an innovative approach will certainly contribute to the achievement of the Great Green Wall goals, which aim by 2030, at the restoration of 100 million hectares of degraded land and the creation of 10 million green jobs…. This initiative will certainly facilitate the alignment of our partners’ interventions, in response to the concerns raised by our Ministers of Environment at the last Great Green Wall Conference,” said Ghazouani.

Ghazouani stressed that it would “enable our countries, in accessing the necessary funds, to increase local investments within the framework of the five pillars adopted and to strengthen the capacities of the national agencies of the Great Green Wall. In this context, I would like to suggest the establishment, in each of our countries, of a biodiversity Fund into which we will contribute a portion of the resources resulting from the cancellation of our debts. Cancellation that we call for with all our hearts.”

“Pandemic recovery is our chance to change course. With smart policies and the right investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience. Innovations in energy and transport can steer a sustainable recovery and an economic and social transformation.  Nature-based solutions – such as Africa’s Great Green Wall – are especially promising,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary General.

Since its inception in 2007, the Great Green Wall (GGW) has partnered with stakeholders to regreen the region and create an 8,000 km long world wonder involving at least 11 countries and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The GGW Initiative, now well into its second decade, is an African-led flagship program demonstrating how to harness the power of nature to provide policy solutions to multiple and complex environmental threats, such as land degradation, desertification, drought, climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and food insecurity, simultaneously.

The GGW has inspired many African countries which are now associated with it and its work is contributing to the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. GGW is among the iconic global campaigns targeted for completion during the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration ending in 2030.

The virtual ‘One Planet Summit’ for biodiversity held on January 11, 2021 in Paris was an opportunity to raise the level of ambition of the international community in protecting nature, while responding to the new questions raised by the COVID-19 pandemic as we collectively mobilize resources to build back better and improve livelihoods in the Sahel through the Great Green Wall Initiative.

The summit is mobilizing resources, heads of government and partners as well as leaders of international organizations, financial institutions, the business sector and NGOs to make commitments for concrete action to preserve and restore biodiversity, to make strong new announcements and to launch transformational initiatives for nature.

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CHAD: Shakal plants 3,000 trees in Bahr El Ghazal to counter the advancing desert

By Boris Ngounou – Published on January 4 2021  –

The NGO Shakal has planted nearly 3,000 trees in Bahr El Ghazal in Chad to combat desertification. The operation carried out in October 2020 was preceded by the implementation of several drinking water projects, the aim being to improve the living conditions of the populations through sustainable development and climate resilience actions.

Shakal, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) for environmental protection, is manoeuvring against the advancing desert in the Bahr El Ghazal province in central Chad. Its annual activity report, presented on December 22nd, 2020, mentions the planting of about 3,000 fruit trees in the region during the month of October 2020. The operation was carried out with the help of a dozen local environmental protection associations. “This repetitive gesture by the NGO Shakal is invaluable. It has enabled us to get active in our struggle,” said Issa Nour Mahamat, president of one of the coalitions of associations that took part in the reforestation campaign.

In Chad, as in the whole of the Sahel, harsh climatic conditions subject many families to precarious conditions, particularly with regard to difficult access to water resources. This is why Shakal’s actions in Bahr El Ghazal have also included the drilling of numerous boreholes enabling 612 households and 8,411 people to have access to drinking water. “Shakal’s mission is to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of the population through sustainable development and climate resilience actions,” said Brahim Ousmane, the president of the NGO.

Chad: one of the countries most exposed to global warming

In the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Chad is ranked as the most at-risk country on the continent. The combination of severe poverty (affecting nearly 87% of the population), recurrent conflicts and the risk of drought and flooding places this Central African country in the front line, just behind Bangladesh.

It is aware of this situation that Chadian civil society is active in favour of the environmental cause. Private actions are thus carried out on a daily basis to support the country on the front line against desertification. From 14 to 18 December 2020, the Slavic artist M’RES carried out the project “One pupil, one tree”. A campaign to raise awareness among young people about reforestation, which took place in 16 high schools in the 6th and 7th districts of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.

Boris Ngounou

Ron Krupp: Restoring our soils

By Commentary

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Ron Krupp, of South Burlington, who is the author of “The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening” and “The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening.”  and is working on his third Vermont garden book called, “The Woodchuck’s Guide to Landscape Plants and Ornamentals.” 

It may come as a surprise  that over 95% of “life on land” resides in soil, and that most of the energy for the world beneath our feet is derived from plant carbon. Living roots are the most energy-rich of these carbon sources. Other than the oceans and fossil fuel deposits, soils are the largest reservoirs of carbon on the planet, holding approximately two times the amount in the atmosphere and vegetation combined. The dark color of fertile soil comes from the presence of organic carbon compounds

Microbes in the vicinity of plant roots and microbes linked to plants via networks of beneficial fungi — increase the availability of the minerals and trace elements required to maintain the health and vitality of their plant hosts. Microbial activity also drives the process of aggregation, which enhances soil structural stability, aeration, infiltration, and water-holding capacity. All living things — above and below ground — benefit when the plant-microbe bridge is functioning effectively.

Soil restoration begins with photosynthesis. Imagine there was a process that could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, replace it with life-giving oxygen, support a robust soil microbiome, regenerate topsoil, enhance the nutrient density of food, restore water balance to the landscape, and increase the profitability of agriculture. It’s called photosynthesis.

In the miracle of photosynthesis, which takes place in the chloroplasts of green leaves, carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil are combined to capture light energy and transform it into biochemical energy in the form of simple sugars. These simple sugars are the building blocks of life. Plants transform sugar into a great diversity of other carbon compounds, including starches, proteins, organic acids, cellulose, lignin, waxes, and oils. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains are packaged sunlight derived from photosynthesis. Significantly, many of the carbon compounds derived from the simple sugars formed during photosynthesis are also essential to the creation of well-structured topsoil. Without photosynthesis there would be no soil. Weathered rock minerals, yes … but no fertile topsoil.

Soil restoration is our ally in the fight against global warming. By capturing carbon and reversing desertification caused by severe drought, soil restoration enhances regional cooling, strengthens resilience against droughts and floods. As noted above, restoring soil ameliorates desertification, a factor that can destabilize already volatile regions. Take the unprecedented drought that precipitated civil unrest in Syria before the outbreak of civil war there. The drought was exacerbated by global warming just as were the wildfires in the western U.S. these past summers.  

In a 2014 white paper, the Rodale Institute showed that regenerative organic farming could capture carbon dioxide in quantities exceeding global emissions. I was surprised to read this. The institute compared organic fields with chemical fields and found much more microbiological activity in the organic fields which led to greater carbon sequestration. In a Swiss study – comparing biodynamics with organic, there was even more microbiological activity using biodynamics methods. (The Rodale Institute  supports research into organic farming. The institute was founded in 1947 by entrepreneur J.I. Rodale in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. When J.I. Rodale died in 1971, his son Robert purchased 333 acres and moved the farm to its current site in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.) 

Sadly, many of today’s farming methods have severely compromised soil microbial communities, significantly reducing the amount of carbon transferred to and stabilized in soil. Over the last 150 years, many of the world’s prime agricultural soils have lost between 30% and 75% of their carbon, adding billions of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. And over the last 70 years, the level of nutrients in almost every kind of food has diminished.

On the other hand, soil carbon can increase when farmers and gardeners maintain constant ground cover, add compost, increase microbe populations, encourage biological diversity, reduce the use of agricultural chemicals, and avoid tillage. So look no further than the ground beneath your feet for a healthy world.  

Desertification: Everything You Need to Know


When pollution, destructive storms, soil erosion, or wildfires strike at an area, the lives of the human, animal, and plant life of that area are inexorably changed. Thanks to human-caused climate change, the natural processes that used to take place over centuries can occur within a few decades. Many people might see one of these processes as the ultimate aftereffect of so many destructive environmental conditions, but desertification is something we should be trying to avoid. But what is desertification anyway, and what causes it to occur? 

What is desertification?

Desertification, as defined by the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, is described as “land degradation in arid, semiarid and dry subhumid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.” Basically, it’s when human activity or another disturbance causes the land in a somewhat dry area to degrade.

This definition applies specifically to drylands, terrestrial regions where water scarcity affects the production of all other resources, including crops, forage, and wood. Desertification can happen on any continent except Antarctica

Land that has been affected by desertification is mostly unlivable. What’s more, full degradation might mean that it is also unrecoverable. For example, if soil degrades so much that all nutrients are lost, the land may no longer be able to support any life. Degradation is an important word in terms of environmentalism because it can be used to describe so many detrimental environmental conditions. 

What is land degradation?

According to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), land degradation is the reduction or loss of biological or economic productivity of a region. It’s one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns, and it’s getting worse every year. When land is degraded, soil carbon and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere. This, in turn, contributes to climate change, as well as desertification. 

GEF believes that globally, about 25 percent of the total land area has been degraded. Corroborating scientists recently warned that 24 billion tons of fertile soil were being lost every year. Much of this degradation is due to unsustainable agriculture practices. If things continue at this alarming rate, the belief is that 95 percent of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050. This data has been corroborated by National Geographic as well.

What causes desertification?

Desertification happens as the result of a long-term failure to balance the demand for and supply of ecosystem services in drylands. Human beings, crops, animals (including those being raised as livestock) are demanding. We all need food, space, and water. Hydration is already fairly hard to come by in arid and sub-arid regions, so adding any external or unforeseen stressors into that already delicate balance can throw everything off entirely. 

Climatic factors due to global warming can result in droughts caused by increased global temperatures. This reduction in fresh water can sound a death knell for a drylands community and affect all the living things that dwell within that biome. Population growth and an increased need for food and other resources are already putting pressure on many ecosystems. Drylands are no different. 

How serious is desertification?

Desertification is a major international concern that does not seem to be slowing down. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), desertification has affected 14 million square miles of land and the lives of 250 million people. It’s such a persistent issue that UNEP’s estimation is that 135 million people may yet be displaced by 2045. This grim prognostication makes it one of the most severe environmental challenges facing humanity today. The problem is, not many people are aware of it. 

How do we combat desertification?

Global warming, pollution, climate change, and deforestation are all eco-friendly buzzwords. These once-innocuous words have become part of our cultural conversation, and that is a good thing. Words have the power to inspire action, it makes them powerful. Understanding the effects of desertification and bringing it into the global lexicon, is the only way to combat the phenomenon itself. 

Individually, one way to combat these types of global problems is to decrease your own environmental impact. Using less energy, driving less, and living a vegan lifestyle can all reduce your individual carbon emissions, which, in turn, helps combat climate change. As far as the world governments are concerned, though, the problem is already being dealt with — as much as it can be, anyway. 

It’s a no-win situation, really. Whichever way you turn or twist, human lives hang in the balance. Without places to grow the necessary food to feed our burgeoning population, people will starve. Without water, they will die of thirst. But if we keep using the soil to the point that it is so degraded that nothing can grow, we will be left with neither. The best we can do is curb our environmental impact in whatever way we can, and hope that new eco-friendly practices and technologies will soon be available. 

The Lebanese Army Planted 500 Trees In Celebration Of Christmas

On the occasion of Christmas, more than 500 trees were planted in the barren land of the northeastern town of Aarsal, Lebanon.

The Lebanese Army, in cooperation with Al-Mouna Rural Association in Aarsal, planted more than 500 trees, including cedar trees.

According to NNA, the trees were provided by the Nature Conservation Center at the American University of Beirut (AUB NCC) on the occasion of the blessed holidays.


The AUB Nature Conservation Center has identified Aarsal as one of its 26 Important Plant Areas (IPA) in Lebanon that hold a significant diversity of wild plants in fungi.

According to the AUB NCC, Aarsal is threatened by quarries and over-grazing because the region has the largest flock of sheep and goats in the country.

In addition, the region doesn’t get a high level of rain, which makes it sensitive to climate change.

The effort of planting trees in the Aarsal area can help in the fight against climate change and the mounting risk of desertification and has a plethora of other benefits for the environment, animals, and social well-being.

Earlier this month, AUB NCC posted on its Instagram that “researchers have shown that the Mediterranean is at high risk of desertification because of climate change and human actions. Plants keep that from happening.”


Afforestation plan on 7,200 square km area to stem biodiversity loss, combat desertification

APP – Daily Times

DECEMBER 23, 2020 –

See also :

Nature has an imperative role for our survival and provides us with abundant oxygen, food through maintaining critical ecosystem services, livelihood to people and shelter to wildlife. But deforestation as a disease is rapidly harming these “lungs of the earth.”

Human activity has deteriorated almost 75 per cent of the earth’s surface, by squeezing wildlife to ever smallest numbers and pushing trees to an isolated corner. Forests and other green covered areas are the key factors which maintain and help regulate climate change impact, control weather patterns and recycle heavy quantities of CO2.Environmental experts believe that globally, a major increase in mean-surface-temperature was a significant consequence of rapid urbanization and industrialization, due to which deforestation was occurring at a rapid pace.

Land: Food. Feed. Fibre

Desertification and Drought Day, running under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.” seeks to provoke  changes in diet and behaviours – such as cutting food waste, buying from local markets and swapping clothes instead of always buying new – can free up land for other uses and lower carbon emissions . Changing consumer and corporate behaviour, having more efficient planning and sustainable practices, could secure enough land to meet the demand for food and supplies.

Plants and animals provide most of our food, clothing and footwear. This means that food, feed (animal) and fibre (for clothing) all compete for arable land. And demand is growing due to population growth and increasing global middle classes.

2020 Desertification and Drought Day will focus on links between production,consumption and land, and the library curated some data and information to help and educate individuals on how to reduce their personal impact.   


  • An extra 593 million hectares of agricultural land, an area nearly twice the size of India, will be required by 2050 over 2010 levels. Over the same period, the world will need to produce an extra 74,000 trillion calories, equivalent to an increase in crop calories of 56%  (Source)
  • One-third of all food produced each year is lost or wasted, while 821 million people are undernourished. This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes of food with a footprint of 1.4 billion hectares, close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land area. This represents a surface larger than Canada and India together. (Source)
  • It has been estimated that, to end hunger by 2030, additional investments in agriculture amounting to US$265 billion a year between 2016 and 2030 will be required at the global level, US$41 billion of which should be committed to social protection to reach the poorest in rural areas; and US$198 billion for pro-poor investment in productive and inclusive livelihood schemes, including regarding water  (Source)
  • Smallholder farming is the most prevalent form of agriculture in the world, supports many of the planet’s most vulnerable populations, and coexists with some of its most diverse and threatened landscapes. Did you know that 918 subnational units in 83 countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South and East Asia average less than five hectares of agricultural land per farming household. These smallholder-dominated systems are home to more than 380 million farming households, make up roughly 30% of the agricultural land and produce more than 70% of the food calories produced in these regions, and are responsible for more than half of the food calories produced globally, as well as more than half of global production of several major food crops. (Source)
  • The demand for water in food production could reach 10-13 trillion cubic metres annually by mid-century – up to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today. (Source)
  • Around 36% of the world’s population is currently living in water-scarce regions (Source)
  • It can take up to 200 tons of fresh water to dye and finish just one ton of fabric  (Source)
  • Over 2 billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress.Recent estimates show that 31 countries experience water stress between 25% (which is defined as the minimum threshold of water stress) and 70%. Another 22 countries are above 70% and are therefore under serious water stress  (Source)
  • Agriculture (including irrigation, livestock and aquaculture) is by far the largest water consumer, accounting for 69% of annual water withdrawals globally. Industry (including power generation) accounts for 19% and households for 12% (Source)
  • Approximately 80% of the global cropland is rainfed, and 60% of the world’s food is produced on rainfed land. Research from different parts of the world shows that supplemental irrigation in rainfed agricultural systems double or even triple rainfed yields per hectare for crops such as wheat, sorghum and maize  (Source)
  • Droughts accounted for 5% of natural disasters, affecting 1.1 billion people, killing 22,000 more, and causing US$100 billion in damage over the same 20-year period  (Source)
  • Worldwide, only 2.9 billion people (or 39% of the global population) used safely managed sanitation services in 2015.Two out of five of these people (1.2 billion) lived in rural areas  (Source)
  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 50 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met while keeping public health risks at a low level. Almost half of people drinking water from unprotected sources live in Sub-Saharan Africa  (Source)
  • In the entirety of the Arab region, some 51 million people (or 9% of the total population) lacked a basic drinking water service in 2015, 73% of whom lived in rural areas   The production of one kilogram of beef requires 15,414 litres of water on average. (Source)
  • The water footprint of meat from sheep and goat (8,763 litres) is larger than that of pork (5,988 litres) or chicken (4,325 litres) The production of one kilogram of vegetables, on the contrary, requires 322 litres of water  (Source)
  • Agriculture contributes 65 per cent of Africa’s employment and 75 per cent of its domestic trade. However, the rich potential of agriculture as a tool to promote food security and fight poverty is at risk from the effects of COVID-19.(Source)
  • We are facing a time of immense challenges: one in eight people in the world live in extreme poverty; 815 million people are undernourished; 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year; six million children die before their fifth birthday each year; 202 million people are unemployed; three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating; our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests are being rapidly degraded, biodiversity eroded; and climate change is putting even more pressure on resources we depend on, disrupting national economies and blighting many people’s lives SOFI p.159 (SourceSourceSource)
  • Did you know 1km2 of desert locusts can eat the same food as 35,000 people? (Source)
  • Stop the waste of food. On 29 September 2020, we celebrate the first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. It also comes during the global COVID-19 pandemic, that has brought about a wake-up call on the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed. Wasting less, eating better and adopting a sustainable lifestyle are key to building a world free of hunger. Little changes to our daily habits can make a huge global impact. Take action. Stop food loss and waste. For the people and for the planet. (Source)
  • Globally, around 14 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail. Significant quantities are also wasted in retail and at the consumption level. When food is loss or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce this food including water, land, energy, labour and capital – go to waste. In addition, the disposal of food loss and waste in landfills, leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change. 15 quick tips for reducing food waste and becoming a Food hero
  • Three smart ways innovation is helping reduce food loss and waste. One thing is clear: in this time of crisis, there is no room for food loss and waste! (Source)
  • Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019)
  • Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019)
  • MORE on Sustainable Land Management; Land Degradation Neutralityfood securitywater footprintdrought , genderurbanization and land;  food loss and food wasteland footprintconsumption

Support and Desertification Prevention projects

Korea Forest Service

Based on Korea’s bilateral cooperation on forestry, many forest projects were completed and some are being implemented in Asia plantation projects to combat desertification in China and Mongolia; the mangrove rehabilitation project and the tree improvement and nursery project in Indonesia; forest rehabilitation project of arid region in central Myanmar.

Moreover, the KFS has continued to transfer forest technologies of forest rehabilitation and management through training programmes by inviting 553 participants from 56 countries including Indonesia, China and Mongolia since 1984.

  • Plantation Project for Desertification Prevention in Western China(‘01~’05, 8,040ha)
  • Plantation Project in Inner Mongolia (‘08~’10, 1,000ha)
  • Forest Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project in Western China by NGO (‘06~’10, 1,400ha)
  • Greenbelt Plantation Project in Mongolia to combat desertification(‘07~’16, 3,000ha)
  • Forest Rehabilitation Project of Arid Region in central Myanmar(‘08~’10, 150ha)

The Impact of Desertification in the Mongolian and the Inner Mongolian Grassland on the Regional Climate

Yongkang Xue 1 -Print Publication: 01 Sep 1996 – DOI:<2173:TIODIT>2.0.CO;2 – Page(s): 2173–2189


This is an investigation of the impact of and mechanisms for biosphere feedback in the northeast Asian grassland on the regional climate. Desertification in the Inner Mongolian grassland has dramatically increased during the past 40 years. The Center for Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Studies atmospheric general circulation model, which includes a biosphere model, was used to test the impact of this desertification. In the grassland experiment, areas of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia were specified as grassland. In the desertification experiment, these areas were specified as desert. Each experiment consists of six integrations with different atmospheric initial conditions and different specifications of the extent of the desertification area. All integrations were 90 days in length, beginning in early June and continuing through August, coincident with the period of the East Asian summer monsoon.

The desertification had a significant impact on the simulated climate. During the past 40 years, the observed rainfall has decreased in northern and southern China but increased in central China, and the Inner Mongolian grassland and northern China have become warmer. The simulated rainfall and surface temperature differences between the desertification integrations and the grassland integrations are consistent with these observed changes.

The water balance and surface energy balance were altered by the desertification. The reduction in evaporation in the desertification experiment dominated the changes in the local surface energy budget. The reduction in convective latent beating above the surface layer enhanced sinking motion (or weakened rising motion) over the desertification area and over the adjacent area to the south. Coincidentally, the monsoon circulation was weakened and the rainfall was reduced.

Kazakhstan Plans To Bring Aral Sea’s Landscape Back To Life

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By Aybek Nurjanov December 14, 2020 –

As environmental issues have long become some of the world’s most pressing challenges, countries across the globe are looking for new solutions and Kazakhstan is no exception.

Last week, government officials from Kazakhstan revealed plans to extend activities aimed at reviving what was once the world’s fourth-largest lake, the Aral Sea. In the next few years, the government will plant another 177.5 million seedlings in that part of the sea where there has been no water for a long time, in order to prevent desertification. 

“We submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources to extend phyto-forest reclamation works at the dried bottom of the Aral Sea within the Kazakhstan Resilient Landscapes Restoration Project to be funded by the World Bank,” said Gulshara Abdykalikova, mayor of country’s southern region of Kyzylorda.

The project worth $4.3 million provides for pilot farmer and community centered landscape restoration of specified degraded territories in Kazakhstan. The list of objectives includes afforestation and shelterbelt establishment around villages to protect from dust storms or along main roads for land stabilization around the degraded Aral Seabed “using successful planting technologies of saxaul and other drought-resistant trees.”

The Aral Sea, lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, had an area of seven million hectares until the 1960s. 

Described as one of the worst environmental disasters of the world, the Aral Sea began shrinking after the waters of the Amu Darya River, which used to flow into the Aral, started to sink into Uzbekistan’s cotton fields, never reaching the sea. Over time the sea split into the South Aral Sea, or “Large Sea,” mainly within Uzbekistan’s borders, and the North Aral Sea, also called “The Small Sea,” in Kazakhstan.

The environmental disaster affected the fishing industry after 40 species of fish inhabiting the sea died out due to the harsh conditions. The most widespread inhabitant of the Aral, the Black Sea flounder, had adapted to life in salt water, but it also completely disappeared by 2003 as it failed to stand the increasingly extreme salty water. Once the world’s fourth largest lake after the Caspian Sea, Lakes Superior, and Victoria, the Aral turned into a desert over time, even burying fishing ships into the sand. 

In addition, the climate in the region became arid and heavy windstorms with millions of tons of pesticides used in agriculture destroyed once diverse fauna.

“Every year, up to 80 million tons of toxic salts rise from the dried bottom of the Aral Sea,” said Asylkhan Asylbekov, who heads Kazakhstan’s Biodiversity Conservation Fund. “Salts and sands of the Aral Sea have been found in Greenland, America and other regions. This is an ecological catastrophe not only for Kazakhstan, but also a global problem.”

One of the ways to stop this process might be to plant saxaul. Being highly drought-resistant, this plant plays an important role in the establishment of shelterbelts and the fixation of dunes as a counter to desertification. Over the past 29 years, Kazakhstan planted 194,000 hectares of the seabed and now these plants are growing naturally.

(VistaNingxia) Relentless efforts to tame the desert in NW China’s Ningxia

Desert environment can become a development opportunity.

(201208) — YINCHUAN, Dec. 8, 2020 (Xinhua) — The Baotou-Lanzhou Railway, China’s first railway through desert, began operating in 1958. It passes through China’s fourth largest desert, the Tengger Desert, which is partly in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and also runs through a region that has 16 km of moving dunes with height of up to 100 meters. The sands became a threat to the railway. Experts from the Soviet Union, invited to design the railway, had predicted that the railway would be buried by sand in 30 years.

Back then, residents who lived near the Tengger Desert also suffered from desertification and land degradation. A breeze would easily bring dust and sand from the desert into their homes. To address the issues the sand was causing, workers and researchers began relentlessly experimenting with desert control techniques. Straw structures, which resemble checkerboards, were finally proved to be the most convenient, environmentally-friendly, and cheapest way of stopping sand encroachment. Within the checkerboards, the surface of the sand forms a hard crust over time which prevents the sand from moving.

The situation has now been improved significantly. Desertification is under control and the desert no longer moves towards the city. Having the experience of sand control on hand, Ningxia is building its first highway crossing the Tengger Desert, which is expected to be finished in 2021.

While fighting against desertification, Ningxia has been trying to find a way to take advantage of deserts. Over the past years, Ningxia has successfully set up a photovoltaic power supply chain by utilizing abundant sunshine in the deserts. Besides, by building tourism facilities and designing beach activities in the deserts, Ningxia has become a popular desert tourism destination.

Though the sand here has been curbed, the threat is not gone. The fight against sand by mankind has never stopped.

A desertification control worker makes straw checkerboard barriers in the Tengger Desert along the construction site of the Qingtongxia-Zhongwei section of the Wuhai-Maqin highway in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Sept. 7, 2020.

Calves are seen at a farm of Helanshan dairy company of Ningxia State Farm near the Helan Mountains in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Nov. 8, 2020. At present, there are 64,000 cows in stock that produce 300,000 tons of fresh milk annually at Helanshan dairy company of Ningxia State Farm. (Xinhua/Wang Peng)

Aerial photo taken on Nov. 8, 2020 shows a farm of Helanshan dairy company of Ningxia State Farm near the Helan Mountains in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. At present, there are 64,000 cows in stock that produce 300,000 tons of fresh milk annually at Helanshan dairy company of Ningxia State Farm.. (Xinhua/Wang Peng)

Aerial photo taken on Sept. 7, 2020 shows desertification control workers making straw checkerboard barriers in the Tengger Desert along the construction site of a section of the Wuhai-Maqin highway, the first desert highway in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Wang Peng)

Aerial photo taken on July 10, 2020 shows a section of the Wuhai-Maqin highway under construction, the first desert highway in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Feng Kaihua)■

Environment fund, centers inaugurated in Saudi Arabia

Arab News Tuesday .  December 08, 2020 –

  • Ministry aims to contribute to the financial sustainability, protect ecosystems

Saudi Arabia’s newly established environment fund and environment centers were inaugurated on Thursday as part of the country’s sustainability strategy and efforts to ensure the protection of its environment and ecosystems.

The fund and five centers were inaugurated by Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, who is the minister of environment, water and agriculture.

“Establishing an environment fund aims at contributing to the financial sustainability of the environment sector and providing the necessary capabilities for its advancement, by contributing to supporting the operational budgets of environmental centers, supporting environmental programs, studies and initiatives, stimulating environmentally friendly technologies and improving environmental performance and environmental rehabilitation programs,” the minister said.

The National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification aims to develop and manage national parks, develop and rehabilitate vegetation cover in forests, protect local endangered plant species, combat desertification, in addition to conducting studies and supporting research related to vegetation.

The National Center for Environmental Compliance is concerned with monitoring the environmental compliance of all establishments that have an impact on the environment in all development sectors, supervising programs for monitoring sources of environmental pollution in addition to approving environmental impact studies, issuing environmental licenses for all development projects, and inspecting installations.

The ministry said the tasks of the National Center for Wildlife Development included supervising programs related to the protection and development of wildlife and biological diversity, as well as planning and managing protected areas and managing centers for the breeding and resettlement of endangered animals.

The National Center for Meteorology will monitor weather and climate conditions, prepare forecasts, provide airports, ports and other bodies with data and weather forecasts, and operate weather monitoring stations in the Kingdom’s regions.

The National Center for Waste Management will organize the waste management sector to improve the quality of services, enhance the level of capabilities and competencies, enhance the economic sustainability of the sector by stimulating investment and maximizing the participation of the private sector, reduce waste disposal in landfills by stimulating the use of best practices in resource recovery techniques.