Major Activity

World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on 17th June 2017

Wildlife Institute of India ENVIS center on Wildlife & Protected Areas celebrated the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on Saturday, 17th June 2017. This day is observed since 1995 by United Nations to promote international cooperation and public awareness to combat desertification and the effects of drought. The slogan for WDCD 2017 was Our land. Our home. Our Future.  The activity included briefing the attendees on the ill effects of global land degradation and the steps taken to ensure its reversal. The talk was hosted by Dr. G.S. Rawat, Dean Wildlife Institute of India and the guest speaker for the event was Dr. Lakshmi Narayan Harsh, Former Vice-chancellor Agricultural University, Jodhpur and ex-Principal Scientist, Central Arid Zone Research Institute. The event was attended by several faculty, researchers and students of the institute.

 

Background

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was officially adopted by countries seriously affected by drought and desertification in 1994 in Paris, France. The Convention is ratified by 195 countries including India. The Convention aims to improve land productivity, to restore degraded land, to establish more efficient water usage and to introduce sustainable development in the affected areas and more generally, improve the living conditions in areas affected by drought and desertification. The UNCCD is particularly committed for active participation of local populations to respond to government decisions made on desertification issues. The UNCCD seeks to facilitate cooperation between the affected countries while paying attention to the needs of developing countries.

 

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 to be celebrated as the "World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought". The objectives were clearly defined to promote public awareness of the issue, and the implementation of the UNCCD in those countries experiencing serious drought or desertification. Ever since, country Parties to the Convention, organizations of the United Nations System, international and non-governmental organizations and other interested stakeholders have celebrated this day with a series of outreach activities worldwide.

 

Threats

Over 1.5 billion people are globally affected by desertification. Roughly 40% of the world’s degraded land occurs in areas with the highest incidence of poverty which means it affects almost 74 % of the world’s poor. According to a UN estimate, 52 % of the land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation. Every minute about 23 hectares of land is lost to desertification which amounts to 12 million hectares per year. This land can produce 20 million tons of grain which could be grown if the land degradation neutrality could be achieved. Currently the global cost of land degradation reaches about $ 490 billion per year, much higher than the cost of action to prevent it. 

 

Global Efforts

In May this year, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Convention on Combating Desertification brought together partners from the governments and civil society to reflect upon challenging agendas of climate and land degradation. They agreed that “Sustainable land management is the key to reduce and minimize land degradation which is strongly linked to the climate change adaptation and reducing GHG emissions”.  Being a key target of the 15th Sustainable Development Goal, sustainably managing forests and taking steps to halt and reverse desertification are primary goals to achieve a sustainable world.

 

Keynote Address

Eminent Agricultural Scientist, Dr. L.N. Harsh was the keynote speaker for the occasion. He briefed the gathering about achieving the global goal of reversing the impacts of desertification. He illustrated that about 5.2 billion ha. area of land mass is classified under dry lands. Of these 457 million ha are affected by various processes of degradation, mainly wind and water erosion. In India 53 per cent of the land is subject to various forms of land degradation. Wind erosion is a serious problem in the arid and semi-arid regions of northwest, covering an area of 28,600 km of which 68% is covered by sand dunes and sandy plains. These lands are degraded due to overgrazing, global warming and over exploitation of natural resources. These degraded land causes sand storms, death of livestock, human migration and trans-boundary conflicts and on food security.

 

Keeping in view of severe problem of desertification, United Nations has launched a programme to combat Desertification (Plan of Action to Combat Desertification -  PACD) in 1977 in all the affected countries. Since then most of the countries have developed or standardized the techniques which are being used for combating desertification. But a review of 10 years efforts revealed that though billions of money spent but success was abysmally low. He discussed the technologies for combating desertification. In the recent past, it emerged out that these degraded lands, if properly handled, will be future food grain bowls for millions of people. Our aim should be to increase public participation through creating awareness on these issues and mobilize and significantly increase resources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems.