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World Environment Day: Why Land, Wetland Restoration Is Everyone’s Concern :: Uganda Radionetwork

World Environment Day: Why Land, Wetland Restoration Is Everyone’s Concern

Vital ecosystems are under threat because of severe droughts and rising temperatures. That’s why on World Environment Day, the UN is calling for a global movement to restore lands, combat drought, and halt desertification.
05 Jun 2024 09:37
A fishing village at Wanseko in Uganda's Albertine Region submerged by floods. Floods and mudslides have become frequent in most parts of Uganda. Credit Wambi Michael /URN

Audio 2

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, up to 40% of the Earth’s land is degraded, affecting half of the world’s population. 

Vital ecosystems are under threat because of severe droughts and rising temperatures. That’s why on World Environment Day, the UN is calling for a global movement to restore lands, combat drought, and halt desertification. 

The national theme for the event in Uganda is “Land Restoration for Climate Resilience” It calls for the protection of wetlands, forests, riverbanks, Lakeshores, and restoration of degraded areas among others. 

The theme also aligns with the Government’s Ten-Year Plan of Action for the Restoration of the Environment and Natural Resources in Uganda (2021-2031), the National Vision 2024, and the National Development Plan.  

President Museveni is expected to grace the occasion in Sironko district. It is organized by the Ministry of Water, Environment, and National Environment Management (Authority NEMA) to partly shed on the threat of the ecosystem degradation in the Mount Elgon area.

A report by the University of Birmingham in 2018 said Uganda was facing increasing environmental threats related to land and wetland degradation. For example, wetland degradation was been quantified as costing Uganda about 2 billion UGX per annum. The UNDP in Uganda around the same time said Wetlands coverage decreased from 15% of land area in 1994 to 10% in 2014. 

In 2003, the annual cost of soil nutrient loss due primarily to erosion was estimated at approximately USD 625 million per year, whilst productivity losses for maize had been estimated at 190kg per hectare. These were attributed to land degradation.   

Current farming practices have been identified as a threat to soil fertility as they result in soil nutrient loss. The government has since 2013 been stating that states that environmental control measures need to be intensified to halt the decline in soil fertility. 

The Water and Environment Minister, Dr. Sam Cheptoris has indicated that the government is intensifying efforts to halt land and wetland degradation.  

He said there are also efforts to restore degraded lands and wetlands. Some experts have however said reversing land degradation may not be easy due to the land tenure and ownership in Uganda. They note that most of the degradation of land takes place on individual or communally owned land  

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in a message, urges everyone to join the global movement to restore our lands, build drought resilience, and to combat desertification

. ////Cue In “Because land….. 

Cue Out…the crisis of pollution and waste”//// 

She is of the view that we can help to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 in line with the global biodiversity framework, and that we can reduce poverty and food insecurity in line with the Social Development Goals (SDGs) //// “Work has begun…. 

Cue Out…. of these conventions”/// 

Anderson believes that land restoration can be a golden thread that ties together all the three gatherings.

World Environment Day 2024 focuses on land restoration, halting desertification , and building drought resilience under the slogan “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration.”  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is hosting this year’s World Environment Day celebrations.    

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. The sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from 2 to 13 December 2024. In Uganda, the National celebrations will held in Sironko District in Eastern Uganda. 

Global land degradation According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, up to 40 per cent of the planet’s land is degraded, directly affecting half of the world’s population. 

The number and duration of droughts have increased by 29 per cent since 2000 – without urgent action, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world's population by 2050.

Land restoration is a key pillar of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, which is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.   

When land is degraded, it impacts food security, water availability, and ecosystem health, directly affecting half of humanity, and causing a loss of about US$40 trillion worth of ecosystem services each year — nearly half of the global GDP of $93 trillion in 2021. Land degradation is also considered “the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss,” resulting in the destruction of the habitats of many animals and plants. 

Severe degradation such as drought and desertification can also devastate communities, leading to social and economic instability. Up to 250 million people could be displaced by 2050 as a result of climate change-induced desertification.  

The IPCC warns that droughts will lead to soil erosion as well as reduced crop yields, while floods and landslides can destroy agricultural lands and infrastructure. 

Tropical storms can uproot trees and damage crops. Heatwaves have caused significant agricultural losses, including in the world’s major breadbasket regions in the last few decades, with major consequences for global food security.

Additionally, climate change causes sea levels to rise, leading to coastal flooding and erosion. Such impacts have serious economic, social, and environmental impact on countries and communities around the world, and scientists caution that these impacts will only become more severe in the future. Without efforts to restore and protect land, nearly 70 gigatonnes more carbon would be emitted by 2050 due to land use change and soil degradation, representing approximately 17 per cent of current annual greenhouse gas emissions.