How desertification affects us

By 2045, 135 million people may be displaced due to desertification, says the United Nations

Published: Friday 02 August 2019

Desertification is a worldwide problem directly affecting 250 million people and more than 4 billion hectares.

It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.

Every day, 32,000 hectares is lost to desertification. It makes land areas flood-prone, salinises soil, deteriorates water quality and silts rivers, streams and reservoirs.

It can also lead to ocean pollution as the polluted sediment and water washes down major rivers.

By 2045, 135 million people may be displaced due to desertification, says the United Nations. Around 12 million hectares of productive land, that can harvest 20 million tonnes of grain, turns barren every year due to desertification and drought.

This is when global food production is expected to increase by 70 per cent by 2050 to feed the entire world population. Also, 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources like land.

Moreover, 795 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished, often due to land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, drought and loss of biodiversity.

Unless we stop desertification, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more people vulnerable to food insecurity.

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