Paragraph on Desertification!
The UN Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) has defined desertification as “the diminution or destruction of the biological potential of the land, which can ultimately lead to desert-like conditions”.
There is no environmental problem in the world that affects poor people as extensively as land degradation or desertification.
According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), about 900 million people are threatened by desertification, which affects more than 6.1 billion hectares, which about 35 per cent of the earth’s land area. Each of the 16 years that has passed since the UN Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) in 1977 has seen approximately 6 million hectares of previously productive land rendered infertile. In terms of income, on an average, this is an annual loss of about 45 billion dollars.
Desertification is the end product of a vicious mixture of economic, political and technological forces, which leaves people economically socially and politically marginalised. As the land gets further degraded, sheer survival takes up more and more human efforts, labour and time, till finally the men are forced to migrate and swell the ranks of the urban unemployed, while the women are left behind to struggle on.
Desertification is a slow process in which land productivity and resilience decline steadily. UNEP’s latest study lists overgrazing, deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices as the major causes of desertification. But, these practices may be motivated by a whole chain of economic practices, which result in poor prices for agricultural, and livestock products, or political compulsions like debt, which force a country to promote adverse land use practices in order to earn foreign exchange.
What makes dry land soils especially vulnerable to degradation is the slowness of their recovery from disturbance. Because water is often not available or is available only in limited quantity, new soil is formed slowly, and salts, once accumulated, tend to remain in situ. Build up of organic matter, which is usually consumed very quickly under warm conditions, takes a long time. Moisture deficiency discourages recolonisation by plants that have been removed or damaged.
Asia, with 1.3 billion hectares of degraded dry lands, suffers the most desertification. But, in terms of severity, Africa and North America are worse off, because nearly three-fourth of dry lands is affected. In fact, desertification is a major environmental problem and has worsened by the persistent droughts reported in the Northern Hemisphere during 1988.
In Africa, drought and desertification rank as the foremost environmental concerns. During the last two decades, there have been at least 10 million environmental refugees from the dry lands. Desertification is a matter of global dimensions.
The risk of desertification is great in areas where rainfall is low and evaporation is high. However, the politics on desertification have turned full circle after the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Convention to Combat Desertification (INC-D) held in May 1993 in Nairobi.
To check desertification it is necessary that nations make combined efforts and if necessary consumers should pay ecological costs of the products exported from developing countries. Only international efforts can only check or minimise the process of desertification.