Qatar Celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Qatar Celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought By Nidhul - June 17, 2022

Image: QNA

The State of Qatar will celebrate the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on Friday, which falls on June 17 annually, under the theme "Rising Up from Drought Together," as Qatar is always keen to be an active partner in the system of international collective action, seeking concerted efforts on ways to combat desertification.

Out of Qatar's belief in the importance of addressing the effects of desertification and its global dimensions that require joint action, it has acceded to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD since 1999 to contribute to combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought in countries experiencing drought or desertification within the framework of an integrated approach that contributes to achieving sustainable development.

Within its environmental system, Qatar is keen to take into account the environmental factors on the lands in which development projects will be built in the country and the ecosystems that contain them.

Under the umbrella of multilateral international environmental agreements and the adoption of strategies and action plans, the country has largely been able to overcome the challenges of desertification, land degradation, and drought or mitigate their effects.

The State of Qatar applies the concepts of sustainable economic growth, through a tight strategy adopted by all concerned ministries in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, previously the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, which was keen on developing a national framework to combat desertification in the country based on the principles of sustainable development, building capacities in a way that ensures taking the necessary measures to protect the lands, and developing plans that would combat desertification and drought at all levels, whether national, regional or international.

In addition to the initiative to plant a million trees previously adopted by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, the initiative to establish a Greenbelt Zone around Doha and its suburbs identified by the second National Development Strategy will contribute to reducing the effects of the factors causing desertification such as dust-laden winds and sand encroachment and aesthetic character that it will give these green spaces.

Work is also underway through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to complete the rehabilitation projects of the Qatari deserts and meadows, where the lands affected by desertification and its repercussions are being rehabilitated at a steady pace and planted with trees of the Qatari environment in a way that harmonizes the preservation of vegetation cover and the consolidation of the natural and cultural heritage.

A number of programmes, initiatives, projects, and works related to studying the ban on grazing on vegetation cover and preserving it, working to rehabilitate meadows, and cultivating the Qatari mainland with plants from the Qatari environment are also being implemented.

A permanent working group was also formed to study the positive and negative effects of the decision to ban grazing on the vegetation cover and the camel herd.

According to the land plan in Qatar, the area of arable land in the country amounts to 65,000 hectares of dry land in all respects. About 14,000 hectares of land are exploited in agriculture and can grow continuously in light of the development plans supported by the state.

Qatar is making great efforts to double the green spaces in the various regions of the country, where the per capita share of these green spaces exceeded 9 square meters. In cooperation with bodies working in the field of environmental protection, the Parks Department of the Ministry of Municipality contributes to combating desertification and provides these bodies with seedlings of local environmental plants produced by the ministry, in addition to providing tree and plant seedlings for cultivation in homes, farms and the Qatari mainland, and distributing well-known Qatari heritage wild trees on farms, such as Ghaf, Samar, Bamber Barri and Garat, and fruitful trees such as Sidr, Omani lemon and berries.

These efforts also included the adoption of initiatives, projects, and works related to the preservation of vegetation cover, the transfer of wild trees from the sites of infrastructure projects, the collection of large quantities of wild plant seeds, and the enhancement of the states seed stock in the gene bank, including endangered and rare plants such as Ghaf and Bamber Barri.

A task force was also formed to update the national strategy to combat desertification from the concerned authorities in the country from its direct results, the preparation of a draft national action plan to combat desertification and protect and rehabilitate the gardens. The gardens were fenced in various parts of the country, and some of them were completely closed to protect endangered or extinct plant species, and others were partially closed to protect plants from the threat to the cultivation, rehabilitation, and protection of others as an important source of plant genetic resources in the country.

The Qatari interest in combating desertification is not limited to the local issue only. The country has been keen to play its regional and international role in this regard. The most prominent of its role is the adoption of the Global Dryland Alliance, an initiative put forward by HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani in his speech before the United Nations in 2014 In Oct. 2017, the Global Dryland Alliance was established with the participation of 11 countries, namely Qatar, Benin, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Tanzania. Among its many activities, the Alliance is exploring ways to address the challenges arising from phenomena such as climate change and desertification.

The alliance contributes to making dryland countries' food secure, which leads to more stability and peace in the world, and cooperates with partners locally, regionally, and internationally to find, publish and implement solutions to meet the challenges of agriculture, water, and energy in dryland countries. 

The Global Dryland Alliance aims to engage in new technological and research innovations related to the needs of the Alliance Member States in the field of energy, water and agricultural use, facilitating the cooperative participation of its members in international and multilateral efforts related to food security, and improving the members’ food security policies and plans, as well as coordinating with the private sector to implement and disseminate innovative solutions related to food security and share the benefits of new technological and research innovation with dryland least developed countries, in an effort to reduce hunger and poverty.

According to the documents of the Global Drylands Alliance, which is based in the State of Qatar, there are four challenges facing the transformation of dry lands into productive lands, the first of which is how to produce food and nutrition.

Improving the level of food security and nutrition in dryland countries will contribute to reducing poverty and promoting sustainable agricultural development. In developing countries, especially those with drylands, the link between poverty and food insecurity is clearly visible, as most poor groups either suffer from undernourishment or food insecurity.

The second challenge in the Global Dryland Alliance's documents is energy. It is difficult to access modern energy resources in drylands. The shortage of electricity is a major obstacle to the development of agriculture and livestock production, food security, social and economic development and diversification of livelihoods.

The third challenge is related to water. The alliance document indicates that dry lands suffer from the fragile nature of the ecosystem, and that the scarcity of fresh water, the unavailability of agricultural land, the excessive consumption of pastures and the poor agricultural productivity hinder the production of farms. The lack of irrigation water may affect the increase of soil salinity in farm production systems, especially in the lands with marginal soil and water.

The fourth challenge is related to land and soil, where soil degradation threatens the ability to provide food for a world population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

The demand for food is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2030 compared to current rates. Meeting these needs will require increasing the number of arable land from 175 to 220 million hectares. The document attributes the direct causes of soil degradation and desertification to unsustainable agriculture, overgrazing of livestock, and overexploitation of forests and woodlands. 

In this context, unsustainable irrigation and production practices lead to increased soil salinity, nutrient depletion and erosion. 950 million hectares of saline land exist in arid and semi-arid regions. This constitutes 33 percent of the world's arable land. Therefore, it is important to work to stop further land degradation and future strategies must focus on not depleting land and increasing the productivity of existing farms.

In another international aspect, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations are working to restore land and transform degraded land into fertile land to create economic resilience, new job opportunities and achieve global food security. These parties are working to transform degraded lands into healthy, productive land in order to provide income and job opportunities, raise food security and provide a healthy climate for human life, which is consistent with the objectives of the Global Drylands Alliance, which is hosted by the State of Qatar.

Trees and plants in cities can reduce stress, promote mental health and provide a healthy environment; according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, trees in cities have 5 main benefits: cooling air, filtering city pollutants, increasing property values, raising urban biodiversity rates and improving mental and emotional health. 

In the same context, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan, hosted on May 9, the work of the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. This session serves as a call to action to ensure that the Earth, which is the lifeblood of this planet, will also benefit current and future generations.

Among the goals of the Abidjan Conference was to create political momentum, and raise ambition in particular in meeting the 2030 global commitments on recovery and strong actions that build resilience in drought-prone communities.

Land restoration is linked to each of the Sustainable Development Goals. The interconnected crises, including climate, COVID-19 and Ukraine remind us of why the world came together in 2015 and committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Achieving these commitments requires large-scale investment, prioritization and in many cases, financial support.

The good news that came out of this conference, as announced by Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohamed, is progress in land restoration, as the G-20 has committed to halving the area of degraded land by 2040, and restoring one billion hectares by 2030, an area the size of the United States or China.

Source: QNA

By Nidhul - June 17, 2022

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