Great Green Walls against sanstorms

Photo credit: Doha News

A sand-haze view of West Bay on March 26, 2011

‘Green belts’ will reduce intensity of sandstorms

The unprecedented sandstorm that swept through Qatar last Wednesday almost brought life to a standstill by disrupting road and aviation traffic for some hours and kept the population indoors in addition to causing allergies and respiratory problems in hundreds of children and adults.

March 10, 2009 - Sandstorm engulfing Riyahd, Saudi Arabia - http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_k_8xL5aVJaw/SbvORbWd--I/AAAAAAAAAaE/HxDTOhi4AF8/s200/10gfriyadhstorm1ap5.jpg
March 10, 2009 – Sandstorm engulfing Riyahd, Saudi Arabia – http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_k_8xL5aVJaw/SbvORbWd–I/AAAAAAAAAaE/HxDTOhi4AF8/s200/10gfriyadhstorm1ap5.jpg

Though most of Qatar consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand, and dust storms are a regular occurrence, the ferocious sandstorm should prompt the authorities concerned to think about and implement steps that would alleviate such a threat in the future.

There is no overnight fix. Qatar needs an aggressive afforestation campaign in much of its barren land, utilising native tree species including the Sidra, to create large “green belts” that would reduce the incidence and intensity of sandstorms.

Studies indicate that creeping deserts are a global problem. It is estimated about one-third of the Earth is exposed to desertification, according to a 2004 United Nations study. Large swaths of Africa and Asia are at risk, as are some parts of North America, especially in the American West.

What makes desertification so problematic in Asia is the movement of sand toward population hubs. The Gobi Desert in China’s northwest is the most dominant; its cousin, the Kubuqi, is farther east and closest to Beijing.

Since the 1980s, the Chinese have planted billions of trees to bring back the land after decades of deforestation as the population grew and industrialisation transformed the country. From 2000 to 2010, large swaths of land – equivalent to the size of Massachusetts – were reforested every year.

Read the full article: Gulf Times

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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