Environmental Pollution – 07
Desertification, also called desertization, the process by which natural or human causes reduce the biological productivity of dry lands (arid and semiarid lands). Declines in productivity may be the result of climate change, deforestation, overgrazing, poverty, political instability, unsustainable irrigation practices, or combinations of these factors. The concept does not refer to the physical expansion of existing deserts but rather to the various processes that threaten all dryland ecosystems, including deserts as well as grasslands and scrublands. Desertification results in persistent degradation of dryland and fragile ecosystems due to man-made activities and variations in climate. Desertification, in short, is when land that was originally of another type of biome turns into a desert biome because of changes of all sorts. A huge issue that many countries have is the fact that there are large pockets of land that are going through a process that is known as desertification.
The grave scenario – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that desertification has affected 36 million square km (14 million square miles) of land and is a major international concern. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the lives of 250 million people are affected by desertification, and as many as 135 million people may be displaced by desertification by 2045, making it one of the most severe environmental challenges facing humanity.
Causes of Desertification
- Overgrazing: Animal grazing is a huge problem for many areas that are starting to become desert biomes. If there are too many animals that are overgrazing in certain spots, it makes it difficult for the plants to grow back, which hurts the biome and makes it lose its former green glory.
- Deforestation: When people are looking to move into an area an expanding settlement and economic activities it leads to desertification as without the plants (especially the trees) around, the rest of the biome cannot thrive.
- Farming Practices: unsustainable farming practices like shifting cultivation in short duration, over irrigation of fields for higher productivity, continuous cropping cycles, extensive use of fertilizers, monocropping etc.. By stripping the soil of its nutrients, desertification becomes more and more of a reality for the area that is being used for farming.