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PLANET EARTH:OUR LOVING HOME Saving Drylands: COP10 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification - P1/3    
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Caring viewers, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. From October 10 to 21, 2011, the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Changwon, South Korea.

One of three major United Nations environmental agreements, the Convention was adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and established in 1994 to address the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote sustainable development in the world’s drylands. During the Conference, approximately 6,400 scientists, experts, government officials and non-governmental organization staff members from 156 countries discussed strategies to halt desertification.

Today, we’ll present part one of a three-part series featuring Supreme Master Television’s interviews with Conference participants. In terms of sustainable development, drylands are arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, generally excluding deserts, and are characterized by sparse, irregular precipitation, large daily temperature variations and soil with little organic matter. Drylands cover 61.5-million square kilometers or 41.3% of Earth’s land surface, a huge proportion considering that the rest of the planet’s land includes mountains along with arable regions.

Drylands also contain about 44% of the world’s farmed areas, where plant species endemic to arid climates account for 30% of the crops currently being cultivated. In addition, drylands are home to 2.1-billion people, 90% of whom live in developing countries. Such major cities as Cairo, Egypt, Mexico City, Mexico and New Delhi, India are located in drylands. Thus, sustainable management and development of drylands are essential measures for governments to address.

Desertification, as we all know, is a serious problem affecting the whole world and has caused a lot of low production in our soils.

The term desertification refers to the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions due to climatic variations, human activity and other factors. Over 100 countries are affected by the phenomenon. Africa is the world’s driest continent, where two-thirds of the surface area is desert or drylands, and frequent, acute droughts severely threaten many nations.

The Sahara Desert is expanding at a rate of 48 kilometers a year. And the Sahel, a 1,000 kilometer belt of semi-arid land that is marked by the Sahara Desert to the north and savanna to the south is being severely affected in parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

Niger is one of the countries most affected by the problem of desertification. It's a landlocked country with no outlet to the sea, where three-fourths of the territory, the land surface is desert.

Desertification in my country, because I come from Burkina Faso, it is a phenomenon that is much related to the issue of droughts, the extreme phenomena of climate change.

Asia is another continent with areas prone to desertification, including 1.7-billion hectares of land ranging from the Middle East to Central Asia and the Pacific Coast. Land degradation is expanding deserts in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, as well as the sandy regions of the Middle East. In fact, Asia is the continent being most seriously affected by growing deserts.

The desertification rate has increased in Mongolia because Mongolia is a landlocked country and it has a mainland atmosphere. Secondly, according to the altitude, many Mongolian regions are located over 1,000 meters above sea level. About 70% of all the land of Mongolia is being affected by desertification with different rates in different regions. Some regions have a higher rate of desertification, some have a middle rate and some have a lower rate. Last year at the point where desertification has occurred in the Gobi Desert area, we held a parliament session to make the whole world focus on desertification.

Kazakhstan has vast territories, more than 272-million hectares. And more than 70% are pastures. The battle with soil degradation and desertification has great significance for our country.

Climate change aggravated by rapidly increasing greenhouse-gas emissions has a hugely detrimental impact on our Earth’s drylands through increased loss of water from the soil and sparse or erratic precipitation. On the other hand, drylands are significant carbon sinks that store 46% of global carbon. When land degradation occurs, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The principal causes of this desertification are the climate factors, which make it a very arid zone. Then, the human factors are linked to degradation due to the use of natural resources.

It is also clear that our country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is suffering from the pressure of climate change. This is really obvious in regions located to the north and the south, I would say mainly the region of Katanga, where before the rainy season lasted six to seven months. Now we are starting to see periods of five months and this is really serious. And also we have to add the climate variability, which renders all the agricultural programs no longer suitable.

Over the past 40 years, analysis shows that due to global warming, the impact of climate change has influenced Mongolia more than three times than the world. More clearly, while the average atmospheric temperature of the world increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius, the Mongolian temperature has risen by 2.10 degrees Celsius. So it is a main, leading driver of desertification. Adding to this, vegetation is affected by the impact of climate change.

Climate change is affecting all countries. We have desertification in some areas due to climate change. Many years before, we didn’t face the problem that we have. The amount of rain is becoming less due to climate change. And even if we have the amount of rain which is enough, now we are getting the water in a very short period during the year. This is affecting our region in the Middle East in general.

The ecological system of a dryland region is extremely fragile. If land degradation proceeds, desert-like conditions are created. Data from the United Nations shows that approximately 12-million hectares of land, an area larger than Bulgaria, are succumbing to degradation each year. And 70% of Earth’s drylands are already degraded to some degree. This trend has been exacerbated by rapid deforestation.

I believe that the main cause is the human being. The human being is the main cause, because cutting the trees, the forest fires, and the land degradation, mostly is due to human beings. Of course, land erosion, water, floods, other weather conditions also cause desertification.

The rate of degradation in Indonesia is quite high, actually. And the ability of the country to rehabilitate cannot match the rate of degradation.

Currently, the deforestation situation has become more and more serious because of the exploitation of the forest by private enterprise. And also, the population has this source of revenue, the forest. So there is a strong stress by the population on the forest. The land is also equally degrading across the country because of this human pressure.

In fact, the cultural practices being used are not compatible with methods that preserve the land. And this phenomenon is strongly felt around big cities where usually after big rainfalls, there are landslides. The problem is really serious in the cities concerning land degradation.

The desertification of land degradation in Guatemala is very serious because we have a high population growth. We don’t have clear development plans for using the land and having access to the land. Therefore there are many regions in the country which have degraded very fast, and we are losing also the forest.

We would like to thank all the attendees of the Conference for determinedly working to end desertification. May we ensure further land does not become desert through better stewardship of our planet.

For more information on the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, please visit www.UNCCD.int

Please join us again next Wednesday for Planet Earth: Our Loving Home and part two of our feature on the Conference. Eco-conscious viewers, thank you for watching today’s program. May all lives be imbued with divine love from Heaven.
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