Studies have shown that over 40 per cent of Cyprus is at risk from desertification, and 7 per cent has already been irreversibly affected by the phenomenon, House President Yiannakis Omirou said on Wednesday.
He was speaking in an address to the House environment committee as part of an event and exhibition on climate change and desertification. He cited studies that say 42 per cent of the island was at risk.
“The most worrying is that more than 7 per cent of Cypriot territory has been irreversibly affected by the desertification process,” he said, pointing to photographic evidence.
“Under the models estimated for the mid-21st century, the areas at risk will increase to 71.4 per cent and at the end of the century a frightening 84.7 per cent.”
He said desertification currently affects one-third of the Earth’s surface threatening the survival and development of around one billion people.
This year, he said the International Day against Desertification and Drought was focusing on “Achieving food security for all through sustainable food production systems.”
The rationale is based on an ecological model of land use, which would fight encroaching desertification and contribute to the effort to eradicate the hunger plaguing mostly dry and sub-humid areas.
“Let’s not also forget that food and water shortages, the consequences of desertification, forcing thousands of people annually to emigrate, a phenomenon that threatens national and regional stability,” he added.
Omirou said that though Cyprus’ share of responsibility for climate change was small, the island was located in one of the global areas under threat.
“The main risk faced is soil quality deterioration due to both natural phenomena and human factors,” he said.
“Rising temperatures, reduced rainfall and poor groundwater enrichment contribute to environmental degradation of the greater area of the island. At the same time we are ourselves liable, each of us individually, as reckless human activities contribute equally to the desertification of our island such as improper management of water resources, poor agricultural and farming practices, deforestation and frequent fires.”
Cyprus ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought in 1999, and in 2008 produced the relevant national plan of action Omirou said.
“Our aim is to sensitise the public. The time for action has arrived. Let’s save our island, let us help save the planet.”