Desertification Threatening 16m Hectares of Pasture

A total of 16 million hectares of pasture are in danger of desertification due to overexploitation, the head of MENARID international project at Iran's Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization has warned.

Houshang Jazi added that 80% of the total 1,640 million hectares of the country’s land experience arid or semi-arid climates and suffer from low rainfall, Zist Online reported.  

"Rainfall is a determining factor in a country’s climate. Regions with no rainfall in a year are considered very arid, those with 50 millimeters of rainfall are arid and those with 250 mm rainfall are semi-arid," he said, adding that Iran is among the semi-arid countries as its average rainfall is 250 mm.

According to Jazi, the overuse of groundwater resources, accompanied by low rainfall, will destroy the vegetation and is a major factor escalating land desertification. “Sixteen million hectares of poor pasture (referred to as desert pasture) are now in danger and will turn into desert, if excessive grazing continues,” he said.

The official explained that regions at the “edge of deserts” should not be exploited and called on related authorities to closely monitor such areas in Semnan, Yazd and the margins of Lut Desert. Part of the damage to pasture comes from the locals' excessive exploitation of these resources.

Pointing to the popularity of ecotourism in deserts in recent years, Jazi said the industry can provide an alternate source of livelihood for locals living on the fringes of deserts and consequently help preserve the natural sites and prevent desertification.

"Deserts enjoy medicinal plants and unique species of animals that can generate profitable revenues for locals through tourism," he said.  “Ecotourism improves work prospects for residents of deserts, motivating them to safeguard the natural environment and desert resources.”

The MENARID international project, known as the Middle East and North Africa Regional Program for Integrated Sustainable Development, is being conducted in Iran, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.

In Iran, the project was launched in September 2010 as a joint activity undertaken by the Global Environmental Fund, United Nations Development Program and Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Management Organization of Iran.

The objective is to remove barriers to integrated natural resources management by developing and strengthening institutional knowledge, capacity and coordination, and by upgrading successful sustainable land and water management practices.


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