Sudan to combat desertification through green belt project

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) — Throughout its contemporary history, Sudan has never known a risk threatening its population component and weakening its local resources like the risk of desert encroachment and waves of drought and desertification, which has become a nagging issue for both the decision-makers and the people.

It is not a surprise that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) issued a report in 2007,  indicating that environmental factors were among the main reasons behind triggering the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

For decades, official and popular efforts in Sudan have failed to find means to keep the environmental balance, curb up desert encroachment and lessen impact of drought waves.

Nevertheless, the “Green Belt Project,” recently launched by Khartoum State authorities, could be a glimpse of hope in the possibility of coping with the power of nature.

The green belt project has won a great concern by the 1st environment conference, currently being convened in Khartoum, where the participants have underscored its importance to contribute to upgrading the environment in Sudan and all countries of the region.

Chairman of the Higher Council for Environment and Promotion of Urban and Rural Development in Khartoum State, Omer Nimir, said  the council has embarked on implementing the trees belt project for Khartoum State at a length of 285 km and a width of 200 km, adding that the project would be generalized later in Sudan’s different states.

He said the project costs 50 million U.S. dollars, to be implemented in four stages and within four years, explaining that the Sudanese government is committed to 25 percent of the project’s total cost, while the international community and global climate funds would provide the remaining 75 percent.

He said the project tends to achieve a number of objectives including stopping desertification, stabilizing the sand and mitigating the climate inside and outside the cities.

“There are two major objectives. First we want to contribute with the world to lessen the toxic emissions, and second to achieve ecological balance and create stability for the villages prior to provide services for the citizens,” said Nimir.

For his part, Hassan Abdel Gadir Hilal, Sudanss Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Physical Development, reiterated importance of the 1st environment conference for implementing the tree belt in Khartoum State.

“Sudan, like other African countries, has suffered a lot from the issues of desertification, degradation of agricultural lands and scarcity of rain due to climatic transformations,” he said.

He added that “we are celebrating the green belt project in Khartoum State, which comes as part of the African Great Green Wall, particularly that about 1,250 km of the green wall is planned to pass through Sudan.”

The African Great Green Wall project was endorsed by the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) in 2005 and then it was approved by the African Union in 2007 as a strategic African project to help the African countries curb up the risk of desert creeping which threatens the CEN-SAD countries.

The great green wall is the first of its kind for the CEN-SAD countries which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Senegal.

The importance of the wall emanates from the fact that it helps build a plant cover barrier that helps stop advancement of sand and desertification.

Sudan, like other African countries, needs a plant cover, where an earlier study for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated that Sudan lost between 250000 to 1,250,000 Hectares of the total area of its forests since 2005, which was a main reason in expansion of the desertification phenomenon.

Meanwhile, and at the far northern Sudan, populations of tens of villages fear that desert encroachment would entirely remove their villages after their local means failed to stop desertification and sand creeping.

“This village has become very small after desert encroachment entirely removed one third of its area,” Abdalla Ismail, a citizen from Al-Baja village in Northern Sudan, told Xinhua.

“We have lost tens of home because of the desert creeping and the issue is still standing. We are simple citizens who cannot fight nature. Our attempts to tackle the problem, such as planting some trees as a belt around the villages, have failed,” he said.

He went on saying that “each time we attempt to remove the sand from around our homes, we fail. The sand dunes move faster than our traditional means. The government should intervene to combat desertification.”

Fadl Al-Moula Akoud, an official of the people’s committee at Al-Baja village, urged the government authorities to immediately intervene to save the villages threatened to be removed by desert creeping.

“Desert creeping threatens to remove our villages. This is a real risk and the government authorities should immediately intervene. We have been complaining for two years and trying to preserve our homes,” he told Xinhua.

Desert encroachment constitutes one of the threats facing Sudan after it expanded in 14 Sudanese states and covered around three percent of the land’s total areas, at a time when local studies indicated that about 64 percent of the Sudanese land is exposed to desertification due to natural or human factors.

To this end, Bashir Abdalla, a Sudanese environment expert and member of the Advisory Board at the Sudanese Council of Ministers, told Xinhua that “our studies indicate that the active sand dunes are creeping in North Sudan at a medium average of 15 meters a year towards the main Nile.”

“The sand dunes are also moving from western Sudan towards the fertile lands at the Gezira scheme in central Sudan, which threatens the agricultural lands and likely to affect the country’s macro-economy,” he said.

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