27. Hold back desertification




It is said that early civilizations around the Nile, Tigris, Europhrates, Indus and the Yellow river were all destroyed due to soil degradation and soil erosion, leading to food scarcity and starvation. In the first Sahara African drought, 2,00,000 people and millions of their animals died.

China grew a Great Green Wall with 66,000,000,000 trees to prevent the desert from advancing. American farmers did the same in the 1930s to stop the advance of the Mid West Dust Bowl. Jojoba plantations, have played a role in combating the effects of desertification in the Thar Desert, India.  Green belts are the best way to protect fertile land and prevent desertification

My city Chennai should be called the ‘Blue City’ because it is on the sea coast and blessed with 134 lakes and three rivers. Unfortunately, all these water bodies are polluted or drying up. On June 17th the world celebrates World Day to Combat Desertification and drought. It is no surprise that this year, all 32 districts of my state, Tamil Nadu have been declared drought striken.

In our case, this problem has arisen because of human activities. Desertification as a process has become a global ecological problem. Deserts appear as a result of natural processes. But many times desertification is man made. This leads to the loss of water bodies denuding of vegetation and the death of wildlife. It happens as a result of greed and misuse of natural resources…

So plant at least 12 trees a year. Get involved in the protection and cleaning of a water body. Refuse to consider living in building being built on a reclaimed lake. Promote sustainable agricultural practices. Buy food from those who promote such practices. Invest in helping people continue to live in villages, instead of triggering large scale migration to cities, due to poverty.

The success of Rajinder Singh India’s water man, also called ‘Water Gandhi’ in the deserts of Rajastan prove that these processes are reversible through proper practices of water management. Much of this happens due to human induced land degradation.

He leads villagers in the footsteps of their ancestors to bring dormant rivers back to life. The key is participatory community action, empowerment of women and linking indigenous knowhow with scientific technologies.

Dr. Rekha Shetty

Water Warrior