Impending disaster

DESERTIFICATION is a dynamic and complex system of land degradation that leads to the loss of agricultural productivity in countries like Pakistan that have an agro-based economy. It thus increases the severity and frequency of droughts, food insecurity, poverty, violence, emigration, political instability and social disintegration.

Desertification is, in fact, a result of mutual interactions of physical, biological, political, social, economic and cultural factors with climatic changes. Thus the factors contributing towards desertification are both natural as well as human.

Drought, landslides, over-flooding, soil erosion and degradation, enhanced urbanisation, water logging and salinity, etc., are some examples of such factors. As these are interactive, the adversity is high and control is trickier.

Due to desertification, carbon storage in the soil reduces considerably which is one of key causes of global warming, and the loss of biodiversity. Contending desertification via improved environmental policies is a vital way for refining the ecological conditions and maintaining sustainable development. To accomplish this, various approaches are in practice around the globe.

Sustainable land management, involving soil and water conservation, afforestation and rehabilitation of degraded land, is the underlying principle. It essentially requires locating environmentally sensitive areas, followed by resilient measures before disaster sets in.

Repetitive high-resolution satellite images, delineation and mapping of the affected areas, remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) ensure the quality of the methods employed to do the needful.

In Pakistan, desertification is on its way from hazard to disaster. Thus the need for prompt sustainable land management is has never been higher. Though the researchers, through their skills and modern instrumentation, are active in highlighting the potential regions where there is an emergent need of revolutionary steps to fight against desertification, governmental agencies are a little slow in this regard.

Dr Intikhab Ulfat

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2022

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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