In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17, “The World Day to Combat Desertification” to promote public awareness of the issue, to sensitize the public and policy makers about the dangers of desertification, land degradation and drought, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
|logo 2011: UNCCD|
This year’s theme for the day is “Forests Keep Drylands Growing” to specifically focus on the importance of forests in drylands areas.
Land degradation and desertification are generally caused by direct factors such as overgrazing, poor drainage, poor water management, and deforestation. These factors if not prevented or controlled, may lead to loss of our pristine natural forests, turning our land barren, deserted and degraded. Such situations threaten the security of decent livelihood of our people. Drylands are generally rainfed areas, so when the forest areas nearby are disturbed and land turns deserted, the seasonal stream flow is disturbed, and the area becomes drought hit. This undercuts food production and access to clean water and air. Without water, the land sinks into aridness and famine hits the locality leading to poverty, followed by epidemics, as stated both in science and religion.
“Forests are the first step towards healing the drylands and protecting them from desertification and drought.” Stressed Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN convention to Combat Desertification. So dry forests are imperative in maintaining the sustainability of drylands. Besides trees always play a multiple roles for the communities. So filling our drylands with trees meant not only protecting the land resources from desertification and degradation but also deriving food and medicines for people and animals and many other multifarious uses. Dry forests and scrubland provide the backbone of arid ecosystems says UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon on the World Day to Combat Desertification. In the long run we are also combating the impacts of escalating climate change.
The kingdom of Bhutan, under the guidance of our visionary monarchs, have never gone to the extent of exploiting our rich natural heritage in name of development. Therefore within a small geographical area of 38,394 sq.km we are proud to say we have 70.4% forest coverage. Such forest areas spread over nine major watersheds in wide range of ecological zones (100msl-7500msl) formed by four major river systems and its tributaries, played a vital role in protecting our land resources. As such Bhutan has never faced serious consequences of land degradation. Rather Bhutan always derived enormous benefits from our forest and it serve as an invaluable natural asset.
Bhutan has less than 8% of the total area arable and more than 70% of the arable land is under dryland farming system. This limited arable land should have the potential of feeding the population of nearly seven lakh people of the country so in order to keep the land productive with its natural fertility, conservation of forest becomes imperative. Trees with its deep root system hold the moisture and nutrients intact. The tree canopies reduce the force of precipitation hitting the ground thus preventing erosion. Trees serve as wind break and reduce the intensity of wind erosion. Thus it prevents the limited land resources from degradation.
Realizing such importance of the forests and keeping in mind the consequences of land degradation, its vital that before the problem becomes pressing, we inculcate the habit of working together through our combined participatory efforts to mitigate the drylands from becoming unproductive. Every year if every one of us plant a single tree and take care of it for a year, then we are not only combating the land against degradation and desertification but also sustaining our resources for our future generations.