Many Asian countries, including India, China, Afghanistan, and Mongolia,
are facing the challenges of desertification. This process, caused by
overgrazing, overploughing and vegetation removal, is intensifying as
human and livestock numbers continue to increase.
In China, approximately 2 674 000 km2 – which represents 27.9
per cent of the total land area – is affected by desertification.
It is estimated that one-third of China’s population is threatened
by desertification, mainly in northwestern, northern and northeastern
parts of the country, and that the annual direct economic loss this
causes is approximately US$6 500 million (UNCCD 2003a).
In June 2003, environment ministers from 30 countries in Asia and the
Pacific signed an accord on implementing the UN Convention to Combat
Desertification (UNCCD) to address this issue and called for a global
effort to fight the problem. The Abu Dhabi Declaration for the Implementation
of the UNCCD urges innovative approaches in fighting desertification
and developing long-term strategies to promote sustainable land management.
Specific measures include investigating the causes of desertification,
establishing a network for information sharing, implementing control
measures, and strengthening agricultural productivity through sustainable
land management. Countries are also urged to pass relevant national
action programmes (UNWire 2003, UNCCD 2003b).