Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another year ahead to combat climate change and desertification

Since 1995 UN General Assembly (under resolution no A/RES/49/1995), every year 17th June has been celebrated as the World day to combat drought and desertification for promoting public awareness related to international cooperation to combat the effect of drought and desertification under the umbrella of UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification). Likewise, this year also UN as a part of their international campaign to tackle global environmental deterioration particularly degradation of dry-lands is celebrating International day to Combat Desertification with the theme “Conserving land and water = Securing our common future”.

It is important to note that 44% of all cultivated system worldwide is located within dry-land. Desertification makes 12 million hectares of land useless for cultivation every year, whereas half of the people who are below poverty line live in dry-lands. Drought and desertification is directly linked with soil productivity and it induces the vulnerability towards pests and diseases. As a result of climate change, agriculture in the dry land is being seriously threatened by raising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns or the increase of drought. Desertification, land degradation and drought threaten this human security by depriving people of their means of life – by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities, and even their homes. This has also impact on the migration and movements of people from one place to other in search of these resources. When secure water and food supplies cannot be guaranteed, people frequently migrate to areas where they believe they can find them. The most recent estimates put the number of the environmentally displaced from anywhere between 17 and 24 million people around the world. It is projected that for the period leading up to the year 2050 there will be 200 million environmentally induced migrants (International Organization for Migration, Geneva). Agriculture and food security are the major concern as decrease in agricultural productivity with shrinking of land availability is the biggest challenge to feed increase population of India. The phenomenon of climate change is affecting the agricultural production and available land for cultivation in a serious manner in India. About 28 % of the country’s total cultivable land is drought prone and about 68 million hector land is undergoing and affected by desertification, which could be a serious blow on agricultural productivity and food security.

The north eastern India is known for the forest and other natural resources along with the water resources. But of late, most of the part of this region is facing the problem of water scarcity and water pollution in some part of the region is perceived as an important problem beside biodiversity loss, jhum, deforestation and urbanization. Many urban localities in the area are constantly facing the problem of water scarcity since last couple of years. City like Imphal is severely facing the problem since last two months. The intensity is such that Imphal has witnessed almost 75 % decrease rainfall in the first quarter of this year as compared to that of 2007-08 as per the record of state meteorological department. During September 2007 to March 2008 rainfall in the city was about 527 mm and within a year the rainfall decreases to three fold resulting only 206 mm in this season. Even during a study while I am comparing the rainfall and meteorological data of Tawang and Bomdila we came up with a linear decrease in rainfall over last 15 years. This two examples along with many other are the replica of phase of future water scarcity and depict the coming days water scenario in the region.

Much of the land surface is degrading or at the risk of degradation due to decline of forest covers. Forest plays an important role in preventing and controlling land degradation and desertification and also for sound economic development while conserving the global environment. The process of deforestation and desertification are intractably linked, whereby land cover changes in terms of forest or other land use and unsustainable use of land resources over a period of time lead to degradation of land and simultaneously desertification. Water harvesting and conservation should be a national priority and it should be used judiciously. Plants in forest areas are the natural carbon sinks. Proper step for massive aforestation and conservation of the remaining forest lands will help in regeneration of the degraded forests and slow down the process of desertification. In this context, stress should be given to conserve and protect forest land, natural water bodies including lakes, rivers and streams where the youth of the region can play a vital role in this context. Lastly, there is another year ahead to combat the ill-effect of climate change and desertification for better ecosystem services and sustainable development.