Islamabad, September 12, 2017 (PPI-OT):Climate Change Minister, Senator Mushahidullah Khan on Tuesday said that rapidly expanding desertification is eating into vast tracks of rich fertile land, pose a greater risk to the global environmental sustainability, food security and social and economic stability in different countries including Pakistan. But afforestation, sustainable animal grazing, rainwater harvesting programmes and effective monitoring systems can effectively help fight the desertification, he suggested.
“The desertification is a “silent, invisible crisis” of land degradation, a global phenomenon, which is one of the humanity’s most pressing problems that undermines efforts to achieve food security, secure livelihoods, social stability and health and economic development goals,” he said on Tuesday while addressing at a high-level ministerial segment of the UN-led international Convention on Desertification being held in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.
Mushahidullah Khan said, “Tackling desertification, which is fast devouring fertile lands and exacerbated by overgrazing, deforestation and groundwater reserves and surface water runoff, must be recognised now as a critical and essential part of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of global biodiversity and food production losses.”
The13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) being held from 6-16 September 2017 is an annual event. Government delegations from around 195 countries have assembled at the 13th desertification convention to decide on the global strategic framework that will guide global ‘desertification combating action’ under the Convention from 2018-2030.
Climate Change Minister Senator Mushahidullah Khan is leading an official delegation at the UN Convention, who highlighted issues of desertification, land degradation and land erosion, which have exacerbated in Pakistan because of global warming-induced climate change.
Established in 1994, the United Nations to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
According to UNCCD reports, Desertification — land degradation in arid and semi-arid areas — is a pressing global environmental challenge, currently affecting an estimated 100-200 million people. One-third of all people on Earth — about 2 billion in number — are potential victims.
The climate change minister and senator Mushahidullah Khan urged the government delegations and civil society members from 195 counties at the UN Convention to treat desertification as an agricultural, social and economic problem instead of side-lining it as an environmental issue.
Drawing global community’s attention at the desertification convention, the climate change minister emphasised in his address that tackling desertification requires the international community to jointly roll out a viable global policy mechanism to cope growing desertification, which pose grave risks to the sustainability of lives and livelihoods of nearly two billion people, who live in arid and semi-arid areas and rely on land resources for the food and income.
He told the international delegations that like in many African and Asia-Pacific countries, desertification has emerged as a major socio-economic and environmental challenge in Pakistan, devouring vast tracks of rich fertile lands and risking country’s food security efforts.
“Pakistan is facing with daunting challenges of combating desertification, with more than 80 per cent of the land classified as arid and semi-arid and severely affected by desertification, land degradation and recurring droughts. The drylands of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab face increasing land degradation and desertification,” Mushahidullah Khan told the participants of the high-level ministerial segment of the UNCCD.
He highlighted that as Pakistan’s population grows and the effects of climate change take hold, desertification has become a major source of concern for the country’s fragile ecosystem. “Pakistan’s agricultural land is vulnerable to desertification – the process by which arable land becomes desert due to drought, deforestation, inappropriate agricultural practices, the effects of climate change, or a combination of all of these,” he added.
He also appraised the participants that as part of global efforts to combat desertification and drought, second phase of the five-year ambitious Sustainable Land Management Programme (SLMP) was being implemented in Pakistan’s desertification-hit districts. The project for 2015-2020 was being supported by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Mushahidullah Khan further explained that “SLMP aims to implement United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and implement sustainable land management practices over entire landscapes in arid and semi-arid landscapes. The initiative is supporting the development of comprehensive land use policies, providing training to individuals and institutions across Pakistan, and helping develop district and village level land use plans to improve practices at the local level”.
During his address, the climate change minister noted that land degradation as a result of the desertification has been increasingly contributing to severe drought and loss of food production, biodiversity could displace millions across the world including Pakistan.
He told the participants that reports of UN’s Food and Agriculture (FAO) agency have already warned that desertification could displace 135 million people across the world including Pakistan by 2030, unless action is taken to restore and rehabilitate degraded land.
He suggested that encouraging pastoral communities to do things such as use new techniques to conserve underground water, manage their livestock more efficiently and protect local biodiversity can all go a long way to addressing the problems of desertification and sustainable land management.
Mushahidullah Khan joined with global leaders at the desertification convention for new desertification monitoring and assessment systems to mitigate fallouts of the desertification globally. He underlined that these very systems are must to help make tracking land degradation – and progress against it – easier and more effective. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t handle it,” the climate change minister Mr. Khan added.
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