Saima Naseem Kanwal, Green Blogger

Drought is defined as prolonged time period having less rainfall as compare to average rainfall data of any region and this period may extend up to a season, a year or several years. The process of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub humid areas known as desertification resulting from natural as well as anthropogenic activities such as climatic variations and human activities. In desertification affected areas droughts are frequent and generally a natural feature of that region.

Current status of desertification:

Almost 52 million square km area covered by dry land which is less than half of earth’s ice-free land surface and mostly this dry land areas occupied by world’s poorest countries. It was reported by United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) that 36 million square km land has been affected by desertification process and nowadays it a major international concern. According to United Nations convention to combat with desertification that 250 million people has been affected by desertification and it was expected that by 2045 the number of affected people will reach to 135 million people. Africa is one of the most desertification affected continent. The countries on the upper hand of Sahara are subjected to more droughts that overwhelm their people.

The World Day to combat desertification and drought is observed every year on 17 June. To promote awareness among public on international efforts to combat with desertification.

Causes of drought and desertification:

The fundamental cause of drought is generally associated with changing in weather patterns demonstrated by stockpile of heat on earth surface which leads toward meteorological changes and declining rainfall, cloud cover and this process increasing evaporation rate. Other human activities which are responsible for intensification of drought’s impact are deforestation, overgrazing, poor farming practices which reduces water retention of the soil, improper soil conservation techniques which lead to soil degradation, over drafting of water, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides and soil pollution. There are many direct and indirect factors behind desertification process including over exploitation and inappropriate land use, over cultivation, inappropriate agricultural practices, stripping the land of resources, mining activities, urbanization and other type of land development.

Effects of desertification and drought:

 Desertification is a worldwide phenomenon having devastating impacts on all the sectors such as decrease in crop yield, hunger, habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, migration, poor water quality, extinction of species and farming become next to impossible, poverty and overpopulation. Although desertification is a worldwide phenomenon it affects about two-thirds countries of the world and making it one of the most severe environmental challenges facing humanity. Afforestation, sustainable animal grazing, rainwater harvesting and effective monitoring systems can effectively help to fight against desertification and drought. Policy Changes towards land use and public education may be an important solution to combat with such problem.

About the Author:  Saima Naseem Kanwal is a young enthusiast and an environmentalist by profession.