Home / Politics / Policy /  Loss of farming land to hit future food security: UN

Hyderabad: Half the world’s increase in urban land will occur in Asia over the next 20 years and two of the region’s largest economies, China and India, will see the most extensive changes.

In India, the loss of agricultural land to urbanization, aided by insufficient planning for food supply lines, will place a severe constraint on the country’s future food security for its growing population, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said in its The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook report released in Hyderabad at the ongoing Conference of Parties-11 (CoP).

The report, produced by the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in partnership with Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), is the world’s first global analysis of how projected patterns of urban land expansion will impact biodiversity and crucial ecosystems. It draws on contributions from more than 123 scientists worldwide.

With the total urban area in the world expected to triple between 2000 and 2030 and urban populations expected to double to around 4.9 billion in the same period, urban expansion, the report said in its assessment, will put stress on water and other natural resources, and consume prime agricultural land.

“More than half the global population already resides in cities. This number is projected to increase, with 60% of the population living in urban areas by 2030," Achim Steiner, United Nations under secretary general and executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in a release.

The report identified urban clusters such as the Mumbai-Delhi industrial corridor to likely have a “significant impact" on habitat and biodiversity in India. It warned that urban expansion is occurring rapidly in areas close to biodiversity hotspots and coastal zones.

In China, for example, urban areas are increasingly encroaching on protected areas of the country. In the Latin American and Caribbean regions, where the number of cities has grown six-fold in the last 50 years, housing for low-income residents often occurs in important areas for biodiversity and ecosystem services such as the wetlands or floodplains. “These are mistakenly considered to be of marginal value by planners," the report observed in its assessment.

“In rapidly urbanizing regions, such as large and mid-size settlements in sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, resources to implement sustainable urban planning are often lacking," it said in the statement.

Africa is urbanizing faster than any other continent, and most population growth will occur in cities of less than 1 million people. “These cities often have weak governance structures, high levels of poverty and low scientific capacity regarding biodiversity," it noted.

On the other hand, lifestyle changes among Indians due to urbanization may have a positive side, the report said, referring to possible reduced pressure on forests as more people rely on gas and other fuel sources, rather than fuel wood and charcoal.

The report noted that rapid urbanization presents an opportunity to improve global sustainability by promoting low-carbon, resource-efficient urban development that can reduce adverse effects on biodiversity and at the same time, improve quality of life.

“This report makes a strong argument for greater attention to be paid by urban planners and managers to the nature-based assets within city boundaries," Steiner said. “Sustainable urban development that supports valuable ecosystems presents a major opportunity for improving lives and livelihoods, and accelerating the transition to an inclusive green economy."

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