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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Fighting desertification and saving deserts

A rich forest may be reduced to a barren hill, or, even, a sparse cold desert turned into a green grove. Both these will cease to be the homes they once were for bio-diversity, and one could call them alien in their own context.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2019 01:24 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
The desert sometimes blooms, and it is short, ethereal and a celebration of a place teeming with life. (Representative Image)
The desert sometimes blooms, and it is short, ethereal and a celebration of a place teeming with life. (Representative Image)(AP)
         

Now that the COP14 on desertification has ended, let’s think about our own, Indian deserts. These are dry, fragile eco-systems, oozing wonderment. Everything adapts to being water scarce. Trees are rare, but welcome. Grasses, thorny shrubs, sand-these are home to thousands of creatures- several unique snakes, birds, animals and plants. The desert sometimes blooms, and it is short, ethereal and a celebration of a place teeming with life.

This is the opposite of desertification, the tragedy that happens when a natural eco-system turns sterile in the context in which it was to flourish. A rich forest may be reduced to a barren hill, or, even, a sparse cold desert turned into a green grove. Both these will cease to be the homes they once were for bio-diversity, and one could call them alien in their own context.

This is why we need to start talking of what constitutes the greens? We know that parts of Leh were greened, and that was presented as a success.

In reality, it’s a disaster, because a unique ecosystem was desertified in the real sense of the word. We also know the term wastelands is highly misleading, because it often refers to open areas, grasslands, commons, pastures and so on.

That’s why, when policies talk of reclaiming wastelands in some way or the other, we need to see what spaces they are really talking about and point out the wasteland fallacy.

This doesn’t mean India’s not in desertification danger.

It is - almost 30 percent of it is threatened. Let’s therefore focus on fighting desertification but conserving deserts.

(The writer is Founder and Director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)

First Published: Sep 16, 2019 01:24 IST

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