‘U.N. Conference on Desertification’ currently being held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 29 August to 9 September 1977, is a first step towards comprehensive assessment and action about the spread of deserts. This conference was called at a relatively short notice, in the wake of the long drought in the Sahelian region of Africa. Beginning in 1968 the countries along the southern border of the Sahara endured six years of a killing drought. It caused experts and Governments to fear that some basic change has occurred in the climate of the region and that desert was expanding southward. Concerned over this grave situation the United Nations General Assembly, in a resolution adopted in 1974, called for International co—operation ‘to stem the spread of desert’ and to discuss and co—ordinate these measures. This Conference on Desertification is convened in response to the above call by the U.N. General Assembly.
About a third of the World’s lane surface is desert or semi desert, and about 15 per cent of the earth’s people live there. But little is known yet about how deserts are created and grow, what role they play in bio—spheric organization, and how best we can fit them into a human order of things.
Historically, they are areas where no civilization could endure; only the hardy nomad has braved its rigours over the centuries, fitting his sinewy life to its harshness with much ingenuity but little profit. But the world must now take note of the possibility of desert areas. The UN. Conference on Desertification will review the climate and desertification; the ecological change and desertification; population, society and desertification; and technology and desertification. Review of the processes and causes of desertification will also include case studies financed by the UNDP which are being made under the supervision of UNESCO and designed to present typical examples of desertification processes and suggesting measures to combat them.
The case studies leading to desertization and desertification are being carried out in Pakistan and Iraq (Water logging and salinization of irrigated areas); Niger and North and North West India (Warm season rainfall). A few other countries such as the USSR, Iran, United States, Australia, China etc. are contributing associated case studies on the subject. The conference would also undertake six studies on the feasibility of international action to halt desert expansion and improve land use in areas that could be reclaimed.
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAQ) is also preparing World Desertification Map of areas affected or likely to be affected by desertification. ‘A Plan of Action’ to combat desertification will be presented to the Conference. The plan is designed to propose specific recommendations for immediate and long range action to arrest and, where possible, reverse the process of desertification.
A workshop on how to carry out the Plan of Action be held immediately after the conference for representatives of national governments and those engaged in the field of operations.
In order to mark this occasion Pakistan Post Office has brought out on 5 September 1977 a special commemorative stamp of 65-paisa denomination on UN Conference on Desertification.