From: Robin Hindery, Associated Press
Published September 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Italy and Algeria Pledge To Further the U.N. Fight against Desertification

UNITED NATIONS — Representatives from Italy, Algeria and the United Nations introduced several initiatives Thursday as part of the U.N.'s expanding effort to combat desertification and related problems like poverty.


A U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification came into force in December 1996, recognizing the widespread problem of the human-induced depletion of soil nutrients and reduction in biological productivity -- and emphasizing action to promote sustainable development at the community level.


The United Nations recently has placed special emphasis on the problem, declaring 2006 the year of deserts and the fight against desertification.


In line with the world body's call to action, Italy and Algeria announced Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. summit that they have joined forces on three anti-desertification projects in Algeria: the reforestation of 600 acres (240 hectares) of parks, a project to improve the water supply system and a project to educate people about the complex desert environment.


The director of Italy's Ministry for Environment and Territory, Corrado Clini, also spoke of several ongoing efforts separate from the joint initiative, including the Italy-funded New Eden Project in southern Iraq, which is working to reverse the environmental damage to Iraqi marshlands inflicted during Saddam Hussein's rule.


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Both Clini and Diallo noted the economic and social impact of desertification, especially the link between land degradation and poverty. When food and water supplies become threatened, they said, people suffer, and in the worst cases they endure famine, mass migration and severe economic losses.


"Desertification is a problem, but it is a problem that has a solution," Diallo said. "Through voluntary action, we can address that problem in a positive way so that we eventually take more preventative than curative action."


Source: Associated Press


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