`Desertification is rising due to water scarcity, climate change`

ISLAMABAD: Due to the scarcity of water and climate change, desertification of land is increasing across the country each year and the level of underground water is also dropping.
Various stakeholders on Friday gathered at the Ministry of Climate Change to devise a strategy to stop desertification and make barren land fertile.
Desertification is the process by which fertile land becomes a desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation and inappropriate agriculture practices.

Chairing the meeting, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, Syed Abu Ahmed Akif emphasised on the importance of combating desertification and land degradation in Pakistan and appreciated the UNDP`s programme for making 800,000 hectares of barren land fertile by 2020 in collaboration with theMinistry of Climate Change, provincial governments and local communities.
The UNDP`s programme is titled Sustainable Land Management Programme (SLMP) and in 2015, a Programme Steering Committee was established to monitor the programme.

`Better management of land resources through this program will go a long way in poverty reduction, better livelihood, food security and improved ecosystems in the country,` Mr Akif said.

Joint Secretary Ishrat Ali told the meeting that the programme is introducing modern approaches and advanced technology in those areas of Pakistan which were affected by land degradation and those which are at risk of desertification.

Talking to Dawn, SLMP National Coordinator, Hamid Marwat, who participated in the meeting said that the problem was particularly acute in a number of places including Chakwal, Khushab, Bakkar,Lakki Marwat, DI Khan, Tharparkar, Sanghar, Umerkot, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Lasbela and other areas.

`Drinking water is not available in these areas and the underground water table has dropped to 1,000 feet. The water level further decreases due to boring and after some time, boring does not work either,` he said.

`We have decided to establish small dams in 14 districts and store rain water throughout the year.

Moreover, ef forts are being made to facilitate agriculture and provide employment, otherwise people start cutting trees to sell,` he added.

Mr Marwat said deforestation will further increase problems and stressed on the need for establishing more dams and increasing the capacity of existing ones as that of the Tarbela Dam was increased by almost 25pc due to siltation.

He said local communities are also being encouraged to plant saplings.

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