Holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests


Photo credit: UN News Centre

In many rural economies, the forest enterprises of families and communities are major contributors to local livelihoods. Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

‘Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,’ says UN chief

On the International Day of Forests, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on governments, businesses, civil society and other partners to adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests.

“Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,” said Mr. Ban in a message on the day, marked annually on 21 March.

Despite their critical importance, forests continue to be razed and damaged. The UN estimates that every year seven million hectares of natural forests are lost and 50 million hectares of forest land are burned.

“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet. They are central to our future prosperity and the stability of the global climate. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals call for transformative action to safeguard them,” the UN chief noted.

2016 theme: supporting water systems

This year, the theme focuses on forests’ role in supporting water systems. Forested catchments reportedly provide three-quarters of all the freshwater used for farms, industry and homes.

“City dwellers in Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro and many other major cities rely on forested areas for a significant portion of their drinking water,” Mr. Ban highlighted. “When we protect and restore forested watersheds, we can save on the cost of building new infrastructure for water purification.”

As the global population grows and demands for water escalate, the UN is warning that safeguarding the water-providing capacity of forests is becoming more urgent. By 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions.

Improving water quality and water supplies

Read the full story: UN NEWS CENTRE

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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