03/15/2014, 00.00
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Asia -Pacific, fewer and fewer natural forests and pastures. Eco-system at risk

The UN experts speak of people robbed of their livelihoods. Problem exacerbated by "desertification and climate change". Every year at least two million hectares is lost. At least 400 million hectares in critical condition. South- East Asia plagued by illegal logging.

Ulaanbaatar ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - The nations of the Asia-Pacific region are failing to curb the progressive loss of natural forests and areas devoted to pasture. Experts from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warn that populations are increasingly being robbed of their livelihoods. The problem is exacerbated by "desertification and climate change". FAO senior official Patrick Durst confirms that forests and grasslands cover about 58% of the territory, but every year at least two million hectares (about 20 thousand km2) are degraded or are rendered unusable.

A few days ago a conference was held on food and nutrition in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, during which it the problem of deforestation strongly emerged. Across the Asia-Pacific region, about 400 million acres (4 million km2), an area equal to the sum of the areas of India and Myanmar, is in critical condition and requires immediate action. "We can already see - adds Durst - the first negative impacts".

In China and Mongolia overgrazing and poor land management have prompted more people to abandon farming, in search of jobs in cities that are growing at an increasingly dizzying rate. The loss of grassland has contributed to desertification which, consequently, leads to an increase of sandstorms dragging sands as far as Canada.

In Southeast Asia, however, the growing phenomenon of illegal logging, the uncontrolled growth of agricultural areas (reclaimed from the forest) and urban sprawl are a source of alarm. Studies show that the WWF Mekong region has lost at least one third of the forests in recent decades, although it a partial reversal of the trend has been registered since 2009. The recovery of woodlands and meadows, warns the official FAO would provide "tremendous environmental, social and economic benefit", to achieve the goal, however, a strong political will and strict adherence to the law is needed.

According to the FAO analysis in recent years India, China and Vietnam have promoted reforestation programs in the areas of greatest risk, however, instead of forests with a wide variety of trees and plants single species with clear commercial purpose have been planted, such as oil palm and rubber. To cite an example, in the Chinese province of Yunnan less than 10% of natural forests remain and the newly planted trees are not able to regulate  the flow of groundwater, consuming water otherwise destined to cultivated fields.


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