Preventing drought and desertification

— PerspectiveBD

WORLD Desertification and Drought Day is observed on June 17 each year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. The process of adopting the International Convention on Desertification began shortly after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, and in the light of this convention, the UN declared a separate day on this issue in 1994. Following the declaration, Drought and Desertification Prevention Day has been observed globally since June 17, 1995.

One-fourth of the world’s area is land and a large part of this land has already been deserted. Due to poor drainage and salinity, a large part of arable land is facing degradation today. Desertification is a big threat to and a serious challenge for the future world. Just as desertification is a global problem, so it is our concern too. Due to an increase in population, our crop land is decreasing day by day and the balance in the environment is being lost. At the same time, the vegetation is declining. Rivers are drying up. The condition of other reservoirs is also miserable. As our crop land is declining and losing its fertility due to drought, we must pay due attention to the environment.

The United Nations says that about 1.5 billion people worldwide depend on eroded land for their livelihood and 42 per cent of the world’s extremely poor live in decaying areas, living in extreme insecurity. This erosion has further accelerated climate change, which is not only a threat to our survival but also to our peace and stability.

For this reason, there is no suitable alternative to extensive afforestation and tree planting to protect this decaying land from drought and desertification. Bear in mind that trees are our best friend, an invaluable resource for people and the environment. The contribution of trees as suppliers of food, clothing, nutrition, shelter, medicines, and other necessities is undeniable, as well as they play an important role in maintaining the balance and protection of the environment. The existence of the animal kingdom depends on the plant world. The forest cover of Bangladesh is very insignificant, while the government’s apathy to preserve the existing forest is worrying.

In a number of recent cyclones, we have seen how the Sundarbans alone saved hundreds of lives. The role of the forest in saving people and livelihoods can hardly be exaggerated. The Sundarbans acts like a shield to protect the people of the south-western coast and adjoining areas of the country from natural disasters.

Planting trees is the most effective way to prevent drought and desertification. Planting trees protects us from the harmful effects of greenhouses, provides us with essential food, provides oxygen, keeps the environment clean by absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the air, purifies harmful polluted air, protects the environment, provides cool shade and prevents soil erosion. It also adds substances to protect soil fertility, retains adequate amounts of water in the soil, provides fuel, supplies raw materials of valuable life-saving medicines, acts as safe habitat for animals, birds and other wildlife, prevents natural disasters, storms, floods, prevents salinity, acts like insurance in human emergencies, absorbs harmful toxins from the soil and keeps the soil clean and pure, keeps the air clean, reduces atmospheric heat and keeps the weather cool.

Among the problems we are constantly facing due to a lack of adequate forest and trees are global warming, desertification, an increase in carbon-dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane and nitrous oxide in the air. With acid rain and rising temperatures, sea levels are rising as polar ice caps melt.

Bangladesh is on the list of the countries most affected by climate change. Therefore, we must individually and collectively be aware.

We all want to be close to the green. If we wish, we can decorate the inside and outside of the house made of brick-concrete as per our mind. Many people place tree tubs on the veranda of the house, next to the stairs and in the living room. The monsoon is very suitable for planting trees. If we want to garden in the tub, roof, garden or open space of the house, we have to take the initiative now. As soon as we reach out, we can find all the wonderful nurseries in the vicinity, from where we can collect trees of our choice. These nurseries sell everything including flowers, fruits, beautifying shrubs, medicinal trees, bonsai, tubs, pesticides, organic fertilisers, soil and materials related to tree care.

Global warming has increased by 0.740 degrees Celsius in the last one hundred years. If global warming continues in this way, global temperatures are expected to rise by 0.50 to 1.70 degrees Celsius by 2050. If it so happens, the rights to food security, potable water and natural resources, housing and other infrastructural facilities will be at stake.

Scientists warn that due to rising sea levels much of Bangladesh’s coastal region will be submerged in the next 50 years. Land in the south-west and north-west of the country is getting degraded due to drought. The northern region in particular is identified as a problem prone area. What comes as worrying is that there is a lack of awareness about the issue among the people and the policymakers. That is why World Drought and Desertification Prevention Day is not observed with special importance in Bangladesh.


Md Zillur Rahaman is a banker and columnist.

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