First Published: 2010-04-02

 
Desert spreading like 'cancer' in Middle East
 

Experts warn burgeoning populations, climate change are accelerating desertification in region.

 

Middle East Online

Alarming!



ALEXANDRIA - The desert is making a comeback in the Middle East, with fertile lands turning into barren wastes that could further destabilise the region, experts said at a water conference on Thursday.

"Desertification spreads like cancer, it can't be noticed immediately," said Wadid Erian, a soil expert with the Arab League, at a conference on Thursday in the Egyptian coastal town of Alexandria.

Its effect can be seen in Syria, where drought has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, ruining farmers and swelling cities, Erian said.

He said Darfur in western Sudan is still reeling from a devastating war exacerbated by a shortage of water and fertile land.

The United Nations Development Programme's 2009 Arab Human Development Report said desertification threatened about 2.87 million square kilometres of land (1.15 million square miles) -- or a fifth of the Middle East and north Africa.

Erian said a large portion of rangeland and agricultural land was under threat, with little effort taken so far to reverse the process.

Burgeoning populations, which put further strain on the environment, and climate change are accelerating the trend, he said.

"The trend in the Arab world leans towards aridity. We are in a struggle against a natural trend, but it is the acceleration that scares us," he said.

"Most Arab countries until 2006 dealt with it as one problem among many. Then agriculture ministers described it as a danger threatening the Arab world. That is because they began to feel pain."

A 2007 UN study spoke of an "environmental crisis of global proportions" that could uproot 50 million people from their homes by 2010, mostly in Africa.

Erian said that if unchecked, the trend could emerge as a threat to international stability, a conclusion shared by the UN report.

"It will lead to more immigration and less security. It will lead to people losing hope," he said.

Fatima el-Malah, a climate change adviser for the Arab League, said despite its impact donor countries have not dealt with desertification as a priority.

Programmes by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification were underfunded, she said. "They said just draw a plan and we'll

 

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks