Federal Minister for Environment Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi disclosed that the more than one billion people of developing countries were victims of desertification affects, like Pakistan.
He said this while inaugurating the inception workshop on sustainable land management to combat desertification in Pakistan. He said it is expected that problems of land degradation and desertification will aggravate further due to looming threats of global warming and climate change.
He said the impact of these threats is already being felt in Pakistan with issues like scarcity of water and retreat of our main glaciers in the north.
This link between climate change and land degradation is likely to undermine our efforts to achieve sustainable development in the country, he said, adding it is, therefore, imperative to take appropriate measures which contribute to both combating desertification and adaptation to climate change.
He said that poverty is the main driving force that triggers the process of desertification and at the same time poverty is the consequence of desertification. Therefore, sustainable management of the land and water resources is vital for our economic development, food security and alleviating poverty from rural areas.
It should remain the focus of our national policies and planning. This ill help in addressing root causes of desertification and maintaining ecological integrity of our dry lands.
He said that the workshop is a platform and opportunity for all stakeholders to have a common understanding of goal, objectives and interventions being taken under this important Project.
He said that the present Government attaches great importance to environmental issues, including land degradation and desertification.
The launch of SLMP will help in implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, mainstreaming National Action Programme, and sustainable land management into national policies and plans.
He reaffirmed the commitment to bring land degradation issues at the forefront of national debate, ensuring that sustainable land management is mainstreamed into sectoral policies.
The Minister apprised that Ministry of Environment is also celebrating 2009 as The National Year of Environment with the primary objective of bringing environment issues at the forefront of public debate and advocacy with a view to find home grown solutions to environmental challenges, including land degradation and desertification.
He expressed the hope that workshop and implementation of the SLMP will help us to foster a better understanding of the causes of land degradation and desertification and develop a road map for long-term programmatic approach to address these challenges. He said that the magnitude of land degradation problems is too vast and the Federal Government alone cannot afford the costs of combating desertification. Therefore, the Ministry looks forward to having cooperation from provincial governments, donors, NGOs, and of course local communities in our efforts to address these problems.
He appreciated the UNDP and Global Environment Facility (GEF) for their technical and financial support for the SLMP and continued assistance for designing the Phase-II of the Project.