Scientists across the world, are of the opinion that desertification is the result of climatic variations and atmospheric changes. But all of them now accept that some human activities are the real causes behind the desertification in the current age. The whole world agrees that desertification has many serious consequences that cause suffering and dangers to the whole life existing in the particular areas, and also, that disrupt many of the environmental processes in those areas. Some of the remarkable causes of desertification and its consequences are mentioned below.
There are a number of causes of desertification and some significant ones are -
(i). Massive deforestation for various activities like extension of agriculture, pasture development, industrialization, mining, urbanization etc.
(ii). Overgrazing by cattle that renders the earth- surface bare, infertile, and thus unproductive.
(iii). Over cultivation that depletes most of the organic content of the soil and makes it prone to soil erosion by wind and water.
(iv). Growth of human population and consequent degradation of land through increasing human activities causes desertification.
(iv). Unscientific irrigation practices and flooding of fields makes the soil saline and unproductive.
Impacts of desertification –
(i). It reduces the ability of land to support life.
(ii). It adversely affects the lives of wild species, domestic animals, agricultural crops and people.
(iii).Desertification reduces plant cover from the earth surface and accelerates soil erosion through wind and water. Here is an example: South Africa is loosing about 300 to 400 million tones of top soil every year.
(iv).The reduction of plant cover which is caused due to desertification causes reduction in the quantity of humus and plant nutrients in soil.
(v). It is a self- reinforcing process. It means, once the process of desertification starts, the conditions are set for continual deterioration of land.
(vi). Desertification causes a drop in biological productivity which to a decline in economic productivity. It further forces farmers into poverty and compels them to migrate.
Image: Face of Desertification
Desertification can be controlled by averting the processes that cause desertification. Desert lands can be reclaimed by adopting appropriate technologies of developing plant covers over the desert lands. Rows of trees can be planted at the margins of deserts as shelter-belts for checking the spread of deserts. According to United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), following measures can be adopted for controlling desertification –
- Banning of goat farming, which is destructive to the environment;
- Reclaim desertified land for increased productivity though a comprehensive approach;
- Development of appropriate farming practices suited to the fragile semi-arid region;
- Refinement of economically viable traditional practices in land degradation control and rehabilitation;
- Improve the living conditions and income of farmers in affected villages to lift them out of poverty.