Land degradation, desertification deepen poverty, hunger: IUCN Pakistan

Karachi: Former federal information minister, Javed Jabbar, global IUCN Vice President and Asia Regional Councilor, has termed rapidly expanding desertification a serious threat to Pakistan’s environmental, agriculture and food security. He said that there is strong need to mobilize the people in the areas, where the desertification is taking place, so that awareness is raised among them about perils of the desertification to their socio-economic lives in general and country’s food security in particular.

He voiced these views at a press briefing organized by the IUCN Pakistan in collaboration with Baanhn Beli and FPCCI (Environment & CSR) here at the IUCN Country Program Office. The briefing was organized in context of the World Day to Combat Desertification, which is marked across the world including Pakistan every year on June 17. It aims to sensitize the public and media to the increasing dangers of desertification, land degradation and drought.

This being the International Year on Forests, the World Day to Combat Desertification for 2011 will focus specifically on the forests in the drylands of the world, guided by the motto: ‘Forests keep drylands working’. The press briefing was attended by journalists from print, electronic and online media outlets.

Presentations were also delivered to present a broader picture of the environmental problem and its effects on every aspect of the life on earth. While presenting the overall view of IUCN, Mr. Javed Jabbar told journalists the IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations. In Pakistan, the IUCN has 29 members organizations, which includes the state, seven government agencies and 21 NGOs.

Nadeem Mirbahar, Coordinator Lasebela of the IUCN said that Pakistan is predominantly an arid country with 80 per cent of its land area falling in arid or semi arid climate and; as a result, has been seriously affected by land degradation and desertification in the recent years. He identified several factors contributing to it, some of which are: soil erosion, water logging and salinity, loss of soil fertility and crop productivity.

Nadeem Mirbahar said “Galloping population is one of the major causes of degradation, which has put immense pressure on the cultivatable land, destroying its fertility and causing desertification. Ultimately the land degradation has increased poverty and hunger.” Dr. Kella Lekhraj, Provinicial Coordinator SLMP, informed the media that due to desertification the estimated annual global loss has come to US$ 42 billion and has increased the threat to the livelihood of one billion people in over 100 countries.

He said unsustainable land management practices are, among others, contributing factor responsible for the loss of vegetative cover. Destroying the guggul trees and other plant species, he pointed out, has severely affected the ecology of the dryland areas. Dr. Kella Lekhraj recommended sustainable harvesting of guggul gum through community awareness and capacity building and its habitat’s projection and encouraging it as a livelihood source for the poor local communities.

M.K. Marri, President Baanhn Beli gave an overview of his organization sustainable land management project to combat
desertification in Pakistan. He mentioned that during the project cultivation of Zeera, castor and Jatropha plants, which is also known as Diesel was undertaken on over 200 acres, which has helped in promoting angro-forestry in the region.

He also told the media briefing participants that kitchen gardening has also been introduced in around 100 houses, which can help the families to sustain during the dry season. In his closing remarks at the press briefing, Ghulam Qadir Shah spoke ways to combat desertification. “Restoration of degraded areas and endemic flora and fauna, raising awareness and improving the socio-economic conditions in the affected areas can significantly help check desertification,” he said.

As a signatory to the UNCDD, Pakistan has taken many steps including preparation of a National Action Program to Combat Desertification in Pakistan and IUCN and a number of NGOS are active in implementing mitigation measures at ground level, he told journalists.

Ghulam Qadir Shah said that IUCN Pakistan has also framed sustainable development policies and strategies and implemented several projects on watershed management, water harvesting, agriculture and livestock management, biodiversity conservation, plantation to enhance vegetative cover to effectively address the problem of desertification.

“With government stakeholders, members and partners IUCN is working to combat desertification through a participatory and inclusive process involving the local communities. Besides, IUCN’s vision for the world’s drylands is to ensure that they are ‘valued and equitably and sustainably managed to support the well-being of societies’,” he said.

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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