Reining in Drought

Travel & Environment Desk
Reining  in DroughtReining  in Drought

As you are reading this, you may be sipping your tea or nibbling on your croissant. Cherish those sips and bites, for if current trends hold, these may become luxuries most of us will not be able to afford.

Drought has been threatening life on Earth for years, and it has been getting worse year after year. The worrying trend forced the United Nations to declare June 17 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought in 1995 to raise public awareness and draw attention to the destructive effects of the two phenomena.

  Parched Lands and Lost Vegetation

Iranians have dealt with drought since time immemorial. While drought is a natural phenomenon that occurs every so often, human activity has exacerbated it, causing it to become a persistent predicament in Iran.

Iran’s geographical position, rising global temperatures and the country’s perennial water shortage have only served to make a bad situation worse.

Iran’s population has grown exponentially in the past 40 years, increasing demand for agricultural and dairy products. To meet those demands, people have had to cut down trees to convert forests and rangelands into pastures and farmlands.

To make matters worse, remote villages, such as those in the vicinity of Zagros forests in western Iran, rely on wood for heating. As a result, they resort to illegal logging to satisfy their need; accelerating deforestation in the process.

According to Isa Kalantari, advisor to First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri and a former agriculture minister, the severity of water shortage and drought in Iran is such that if workable solutions are not devised, 50 million people could be displaced. Farmers may have to leave farmlands in search of other jobs and crop production will drop to record lows, which will inevitably lead to increased prices.

  Soil, We Hardly Knew Ye

Our soil is dying. It is an undeniable, yet unsurprising fact; it is the result of land degradation caused by desertification.

Soil in parched lands and forests stripped of trees is at the mercy of wind. Wind erosion damages land and natural vegetation, and it may cause health problems for those living in drought-ridden regions. Drought-hit lands may also become sources of dust storms that have hit 22 provinces so far.

Wind erosion also causes soil degradation, which means soil loses fertility and becomes absolutely useless for farming.

  Walk the Talk

The theme of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is “attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems,” an attempt by the United Nations to highlight the destructive impact of drought and desertification on soil fertility.

Officials and experts have been talking about the threat of drought and fallouts of inaction for years—some of whom have even gone as far as saying the entire Middle East is headed for an unprecedented drought period which could last for 30 years—yet little seems to have been done in the way of action.

Of course, some measures are being taken: Over 200 government-funded agricultural studies will be conducted in the current Iranian year (ending March 19, 2016) alone, while NGOs have been organizing seminars to involve the public and provide experts with a platform to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions.

Recently, President Hassan Rouhani said his government is committed to tackling environmental problems and urged national and international organizations to join forces to curb the impact of human activity on the environment.

Raising public awareness regarding the importance of natural resources is an important step toward fighting drought and desertification. Farmers must be taught efficient farming practices, and water demand needs to be reduced. Also, the government must encourage reforestation and educate the public in proper land use.

  A Desiccated Planet

As things stand, the whole planet is threatened by drought and desertification. Forests are being cut down in Brazil and Indonesia to meet the global demand for paper, while drought has become synonymous with Africa.

World leaders have used every platform available to them to voice concern over the Earth’s deteriorating conditions and have repeatedly pledged to take action.

An old saying commonly attributed to ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop, goes: “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Not much has changed since Aesop first uttered those words. Human tendency toward inaction has often gotten us into trouble, but we have now reached a point where inaction portends disaster. Our actions, or lack thereof, decide the fate of the planet.

We now have a decision to make: Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the planet, or the one that destroyed it?