The humanitarian emergency caused by the last few months’ devastating floods in Asia is a warning that the situation could get worse, The people affected by this crisis have lost everything, and their difficulties are only just beginning. Two countries, Pakistan and Thailand, have been very badly hit by the disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people face a struggle for survival over the next six months. Thousands of homes have been damaged, possessions destroyed and hundreds of schools, roads and health facilities are closed.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that by the year 2050 around 60 percent of the world's population will experience severe water shortages, with 33 percent thought to be already under water stress. The water cycle has been disturbed very badly all over the world causing food depletion, drought, flooding, rising sea level, an increase in green house gases and food shortages that are very scary.
Deforestation is part of the reason.
Forests cover 31% of the total global land area. These forests give home to 80% of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity and the livelihood of 1.6 billion people around the world depends on forests. Recognizing the global importance of forests the United Nations declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness of conservation, multiple use and the sustainable development of all types of forests.
Forests clean the soil and fight soil erosion and bind the soil result in reduction of soil attrition as well provide shade and cool to surroundings they also act as wind breakers. Noise pollution reduces as trees leaves reduce frequency of sound.
“They provide both staple foods and supplemental foods. To enhance these benefits, governments and development partners should increase investments in support of sustainable forest management and rehabilitation of degraded forest lands,” Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Brails said. He added that in India alone more than 50 million people depend directly on forests for subsistence, while in Laos wild foods are consumed by 80 per cent of its 6.4 million people on a daily basis.
Forests can play an even greater role in feeding the world with products ranging from vitamin-rich leaves to fruits and roots. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there were 4.033 billion hectares of forest or 31% of total land area standing in the world in 2010. That's down slightly from 2000.
The story of the world's forests is usually a depressing one. Tropical rain forests are under pressure in South America, Asia and Africa, threatening habitat for countless species and adding billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. But the good news is that the rate of overall forest loss has slowed considerably, dropping from 8.3 million hectares lost a year in the 1990s to 5.2 million hectares a year, thanks in part to significant reforestation taking place throughout much of Asia.
Ethiopia has lost three-quarters of its remaining trees in the last twenty-five years. Forest cover is now down to just 3%. This land, the birthplace of humanity, has grown barren. (It's the usual story: the greed of the former dictatorship; unwise land policies; the desperate poor cutting trees for fuel.) Since 1985, the year of the "Live Aid" concert, food production has declined by two-thirds, and twice as many Ethiopians are going hungry.
Naseem Sheikh is a guest writer for Celsias and lives in Lahore, Pakistan