Efforts on to stem land degradation

Published: September 12, 2019
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) says afforestation and durable land management can help reverse ecological damage.

Soaring land degradation in Pakistan – caused by, among other factors, deforestation. desertification, soil erosion, salinity and water-logging and unsustainable intensive agricultural practices and exacerbated by climate shifts – threatens the country’s efforts for achieving food security, stemming rural-urban migration and land-related conflicts, said Mohammad Saleem, a media spokesperson of MoCC.

Explaining adverse impacts of climate shifts on degrading lands in the country, he said that climate change was further making it harder to grow enough food for an expanding population at a time when land is being degraded because of deforestation, unsustainable crop-growing and grazing styles.

Pakistan is ranked among the top ten countries “most affected by global warming-induced extreme weather events”, according to the Global Climate Risk Index, released by Germanwatch, an international public policy research body.

Quoting from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) study ‘Land degradation in South Asia: its severity, causes and effects’, Saleem who is an environmentalist also said that around 61 per cent of the agriculture land in Pakistan is degraded and over 60 per cent of natural grazing areas of the country have production levels lower than one-third of their biological potential.

More than one-third of the total area has been classified as vulnerable to desertification. Around 68 million hectares of the country’s total land area of around 80 million hectares remains at risk of land degradation, shows another study by the International Centre for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), he said.

He added that “Land degradation is mounting pressures on lands used for tilling, turning arable lands infertile and uncultivable,” and warned  “This will only mar the country’s ability to achieve food security and scale down resultant threats to hunger, malnutrition, rural employment. This is also leading rise in rural-urban migration and community-level conflicts.”

For instance, in poor and marginalised or deprived communities, land degradation bearks up families and force young people to leave home and move to urban centers in search of livelihood, he explained.

Saleem further said, “It leads to friction and conflicts over access to land and water last longer, affecting overall community development deepening rural hunger, malnutrition and joblessness.”

He suggested that expanding forest cover to degraded lands and desertification-hit lands after their restoration, introducing sustainable farming/tilling and grazing practices that help protect fragile soils, rainwater harvesting, efficient water storage and management for irrigation, forestry and other uses and protecting wetlands are of critical importance to stabilise and roll back land degradation.

The environmentalist says that plans and programmes have been already devised and being implemented by the climate change ministry in support with international, national and provincial stakeholder organisations to fight land degradation restore damaged areas.He said PM’s Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, Prime Minister’s Clean and Green Pakistan Programme UNDP-supported Sustainable Land Management Programme, World Bank-sponsored Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD+) Readiness programme are among the key interventions launched by the climate change ministry to fight land degradation, restore degraded forest lands, fight droughts, aridity air pollution, promote cleanliness, environmental conservation and protection.

“Through and in these critical programmes hammered out by the climate change ministry, greater importance has been assigned to adaptation measures in forestry, sustainable agriculture, rainwater harvesting, water management and building climate-resilient water infrastructure areas to cope with land degradation challenges,” he elaborated. 

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2019.

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