Ranjan K Baruah
Can the soil ask for help? Well, this is something interesting as why soil would ask for help but there is a concern yet to be addressed at large scale when it comes to environment and its protection is combating desertification. It is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations.
Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world’s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use.
Desertification is a phenomenon that ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Today, more than two billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. By 2030, food production will require an additional 300 million hectares of land. It is a global issue, with serious implications worldwide for biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty eradication, socio-economic stability and sustainable development.
The issue of desertification is not new though — it played a significant role in human history, contributing to the collapse of several large empires, and the displacement of local population. But today, the pace of arable land degradation is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCDD) is observed on 17th June every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The day is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels. This year’s theme is “Food. Feed. Fibre. - the links between consumption and land.”
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Two years later, in 1994, the General Assembly established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management, and declared 17 June “WDCDD” by its resolution A/RES/49/115.
Food, feed and fibre must also compete with expanding cities and the fuel industry. The end result is that land is being converted and degraded at unsustainable rates, damaging production, ecosystems and biodiversity. With changes in consumer and corporate behaviour, and the adoption of more efficient planning and sustainable practices, there could be enough land to meet the demand. If every consumer were to buy products that do not degrade the land, suppliers would cut back the flow of these products and send a powerful signal to producers and policy-makers.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of UN on his message on the occasion said that “we can reverse this trend and bring solutions to a wide range of challenges, from forced migration and hunger to climate change”. On this day, Secretary General called for a new contract for nature. He also added that “through international action and solidarity, we can scale up land restoration and nature-based solutions for climate action and the benefit of future generations and by doing so, we can deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.”
As it is a challenge for all of us, so, we have to find out ways to combat desertification and droughts. Every individual may contribute in this regard when they consume sustainably and responsibly. We must encourage reforestation and tree regeneration and make sure that we plan tress every year. Every small step is counted and contributes towards sustainable development. We should not limit ourselves to mere awareness but take action which shall bring positive tangible transformation for us and for the generation to come.
(With direct inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected]