World Day to Com­bat De­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion

Mes­sage of UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon “In­vest in healthy soils”

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Land degra­da­tion and de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion un­der­cut hu­man rights, start­ing with the right to food. Nearly 1 bil­lion peo­ple lack ad­e­quate nutri­tion, and those liv­ing off de­graded ar­eas are among the most af­fected. Their sit­u­a­tion could worsen if land degra­da­tion, as pro­jected, re­duces global food pro­duc­tion by 12 per cent by 2035.

Food se­cu­rity is also im­pacted by the de­cline in wa­ter re­sources. Due to land degra­da­tion there is less wa­ter and snow be­ing stored in the ground. In 10 years, two out of ev­ery three peo­ple in the world could be liv­ing un­der stressed wa­ter con­di­tions.

We de­grade 12 mil­lion hectares of pro­duc­tive land ev­ery year-- an area the size of Benin or Honduras. More than half our farm­land is de­graded, and only 10 per cent is im­prov­ing. About 500 mil­lion hectares could be re­stored cost-ef­fec­tively, rather than be­ing aban­doned. If we do not change how we use our land, we will have to con­vert an area the size of Nor­way into new farm­land ev­ery year to meet fu­ture needs for food, fresh­wa­ter, bio­fu­els and ur­ban growth. This would cause de­for­esta­tion and other neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

The threat does not stop there. Through land degra­da­tion and other in­ap­pro­pri­ate land use, we re­lease about a quar­ter of the green­house gases warm­ing the planet. Cli­mate change and un­sus­tain­able land use, par­tic­u­larly by agri­cul­ture, are con­tribut­ing to the de­cline of fresh­wa­ter re­sources in all re­gions of the world. As a con­se­quence, global food pro­duc­tion is pro­jected to fall by 2 per cent ev­ery decade.

A world where all rights to food, wa­ter and hu­man se­cu­rity are guar­an­teed is pos­si­ble. But we need to change course and start se­cur­ing ev­ery hectare of land that can pro­vide food or fresh­wa­ter. Land is a re­new­able re­source, but only if we in­vest in land degra­da­tion neutrality, which has been pro­posed by United Na­tions Mem­ber States for the post-2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda. We must avoid de­grad­ing more land and, at the same time, re­ha­bil­i­tate all the de­graded land that we can. Then, we will also be able to make rapid steps to­wards con­trol­ling cli­mate change.

Our lives and civ­i­liza­tions de­pend on the land. Let us in­vest in healthy soils to se­cure our rights to food and fresh­wa­ter.

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