What is Desertification?
- Desertification is a gradual process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions resulting from various factors, including human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.
- The concept does not refer to the physical expansion of existing deserts but rather to the various processes that threaten all dryland ecosystems.
Land Degradation & Land Desertification
- Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions particularly drought, and human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility negatively affecting food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.
- Desertification is defined as “a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.”
Causes for desertification
- Indiscriminate urbanization
- Overdrafting of groundwater
- Tillage practices in agriculture
- Insecticide and pesticide overuse
Impacts of desertification
- As land is degraded, food production is reduced.
- As water sources dry up, populations are pressured to move to more hospitable areas resulting in large scale migration to urban centres putting pressure on limited resources in urban areas.
- Forests, Trees, Vegetation Cover, Soil Organic Compounds are important sinks of Carbon dioxide – Land degradation reduces the amount of Carbon dioxide absorbed.
Impacts on Health
- Higher threats of malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies.
- More water- and food-borne diseases that result from poor hygiene and a lack of clean water.
- Respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants.
- The spread of infectious diseases increases as populations migrate.
More on desertification
- The International Resource Panel, a scientific body hosted by the UN Environment Programme, said about 25% of the World’s Land area is degraded.
- 40% of the world’s population is impacted negatively because of land degradation.
- It said the rate of soil erosion is 100 times faster than the rate of soil formation.
- Annual area of drylands has increased at more than 1% every year in the last 50 years.
Status in India
- India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation.
- As per ISRO, nearly 30% of land in the country is degraded.
- India hosted the 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP 14) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
- India is striving towards achieving the national commitments of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and restoration of 26 Million ha of degraded land by 2030 which focus on sustainable and optimum utilisation of land resources.
- LDN is a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support the ecosystem functions and enhance food security, remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.
- The government of India has adopted a collective approach for making progress towards achieving the national commitments related to land restoration.
What is UNCCD?
- The United Nations has three major Conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- These conventions were the result of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, also called the Earth Summit.
- Established in 1994, the UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
- The Convention specifically addresses the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
- The implementation of the UNCCD is geared around five regional implementation annexes: Annex 1 for Africa, Annex 2 for Asia, Annex 3 for Latin America and the Caribbean, Annex 4 for Northern Mediterranean and Annex 5 for Central and Eastern Europe.
- These annexes are meant to set out the focus and content of action programmes for particular subregions and regions. They also provide a framework for regional coordination and collaboration.
- The Convention has 197 parties including India.
Why in the news?
- Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav pitched for promoting lifestyles for the environment during his address at the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- COP15 is being held at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May 2022. It will bring together leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society and other key stakeholders from around the world to drive progress in the future sustainable management of land and will explore links between land and other key sustainability issues.
- The Minister further stated that India has enhanced monitoring the health of its soils through the Soil Health Card Programme implemented throughout the country. Over 229 million Soil Health Cards have been issued to farmers between 2015 and 2019 and this program has led to a decline of 8-10% in the use of chemical fertilizers and also raised productivity by 5-6%.