UN conference sounds warning on spread of deserts

UN conference sounds warning on spread of deserts

Madrid, 3 September The global spread of deserts poses a severe challenge to humanity that transcends any international borders, a UN-sponsored conference in Madrid warned today.

“It’s clear now that desertification is amongst the greatest challenges that humankind faces," Crown Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish throne, said in an opening address to the forum.

“We should never forget that the impact of desertification is not only felt in zones where the problem originates, but also in areas much further away," he said.

The 12-day gathering of senior politicians and experts from nearly 200 countries hopes to come up with a new 10-year “strategic plan" to stem desertification and set measurable objectives with a timeline for achieving them.

Around 200 million people live in desert areas while just over two billion -- or one-third of the world’s population -- live on arid land that makes up 41% of the earth’s surface, according to a study by the United Nations University.

The areas of the planet that are forecast to get drier due to climate change are also those with the highest population growth rate, the study’s lead author and the director of the UN University’s Canada-based International Network on Water, Zafar Adeel, told AFP.

“This is a recipe for trouble brewing if we continue on our present path," he said.

Desertification is blamed for forced migration, conflict and growing food insecurity.