Will desertification stretch the Gobi to UB

Award winning photo taken by N.Duinhar in Dornogobi Aimag dramatizes the reality of desertification
Over 90 percent of the land area in Mongolia is classified as a fragile dry-land and 72.3 percent of which is affected by desertification, says the Desertification Research Center of Geo-ecology Institute. The threat of desertification and its affects are cause for concern and measures to combat desertification have increased in recent years. Mongolia marked World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification on July 17, which Mongolia observes since it became a party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1996. This year, the Day’s slogan is “Enhancing soil anywhere enhances life everywhere”.
Promotion activities including broadcasting the documentary ‘Desertification Mongolia’, ads, publications in the press, street boards and screens, announcement of photo contest results, a photo exhibition and distribution of brochures on simple ways to enhancing soil were taken to address the increase of public awareness on the causes of desertification, as well as the means to cope with and prevent land degradation and desertification. “The threat of land degradation, and consequent desertification, are becoming a serious obstacle for the growth in Mongolia. It affects the national economy and sustainable livelihoods of the rural population. It results in the loss of livestock,pasture degradation, decreased crop production, increased poverty and migration, especially linked with a dry summer followed by a harsh winter, similar to the one we just experienced. With the last dzud, about 8,700 herder families completely lost their livestock’ said, Ms. Shoko Noda, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Mongolia at a press conference. She noted that it is not only Government, who has a conservation role, but every citizen can contribute towards conservation and make a difference to conserving nature, by planting trees, by saving water and energy, and by raising their voice on every occasion where they can make a difference. Mongolia endorsed the National Action Program for Combating Desertification in 2003, which was recently updated in April this year, being streamlined with the new 10-year strategy of the UNCCD. A National Committee to Combat Desertification was established, functioning under the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, and submitted 3 national reports to the UN. Currently, it is preparing the 4th national report to the UNCCD. As the largest portion of Mongolia’s land is used for livestock grazing and there has been an increasing tendency for overgrazing and degradation in recent years, UNDP’s predecessor projects have been contributing towards effective, community-based management of pastureland. According to scientists research results, aridity increased by 3.2-10 percent in steppe and gobi areas and by 10-15 percent in forests and high mountainous areas. Compared to 1960, dust storm days have tripled in steppe and Gobi areas and Gobi and Great Lakes Depression experience 61-127 stormy days a year. This leads to extend sandy areas as well as a decrease in surface water levels. Overgrazing and degradation due to climate change as well as human activities also cause desertification. Some 887 rivers, 2096 springs and 1166 lakes have dried up since 1970. Overgrazing reached 32.5 percent, or by 16 million sheep. A photo contest was organized by the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism, ‘Coping with Desertification Project’, implemented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, ‘Sustainable Land Management for Combating Desertification’ project of UNDP and “Gamma” Photo Agency. The contest aims to raise awareness on land degradation and desertification, and their social consequences, to encourage participation of young people in raising environmental awareness and depict the relationship between affected populations and ecosystems. Over 40 photographs were received in the photo contest among which photographer N.Duinhar won first place.
source: The Mongol Messenger
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