The Fight Against Desertification
As the global population crosses 7 billion, the pressure on land has increased exponentially in recent decades. Food security, habitat and livelihood are the buzz words these days. The paradox is that despite ever-increasing demand for land, more than 10 million hectares of arable land turns into desert every year. The major factors responsible for desertification are deforestation, over-grazing, unsustainable cultivation methods and poor irrigation practices, apart from climate change. According to Mr. Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, “Land degradation is a global phenomenon, with 78 percent of the degrading land taking place in non-drylands.” The inevitable outcome of desertification is the loss of invaluable agricultural lands, destruction of vegetation cover and hydrologic imbalance in drylands.
Gravity of the Situation
Desertification is a worldwide phenomenon afflicting countries all over the world. China is experiencing desertification at an alarming rate – as much as 1,300 square miles each year. Sub-Saharan Africa is drying up, as are regions of Turkey that were once rich agricultural lands. The desert is making a comeback in the Middle East, with fertile lands turning into barren wastes. According to United Nation’s Development Program’s 2009 Arab Human Development Report, desertification is threatening around one-fifth of the MENA region.
Around 48.6 per cent of the land area in the Mashreq, 28.6 per cent in the Nile Valley and the Horn of Africa, 16.5 per cent in North Africa and 9 per cent in the Arabian Peninsula is endangered on account of desertification. Among MENA countries, the countries facing the greatest dangers are Libya, Egypt and Jordan. In the Arabian Peninsula, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE are the most affected countries.
Ways to Combat Desertification
The United Nations has announced the decade starting 2012 as one for achieving zero net land degradation neutrality. In the Middle East region, the answer to this lies in combating desertification.
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