UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Wednesday that desertification land degradation have posed threats on national and regional stability, urging countries to reconsider the agricultural practices and water management.
One-third of the Earth's surface is affected by desertification, endangering the livelihoods and development of up to 1 billion people, Ban said in a message to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which has been observed since 1995.
"Faced with long periods of drought, famine and deepening poverty, many have only one option: flight from the land," Ban said, noting that there are already 24 million environmentally-induced migrants and the number could rise to 200 million by 2050.
Nearly one-third of the world's cropland has been abandoned in the past four decades, Ban said. Climate change is one force behind desertification, but "we must reconsider our agricultural practices and how we manage our water resources" with agriculture and livestock raising accounting for 70 percent of fresh water use and up to 80 percent of deforestation, Ban said.
Growing demand for crops for both animal feed and biofuels will put further pressure on scarce water resources without sustainable management, he said.
Ban also emphasized the unsustainable nature of current global consumption and production patterns, which could lead to further global food crises, similar to that in 2008, as well as continued desertification, land degradation and drought.
"As usual, the poor will be the first victims and the last to recover," Ban said.
He called on world leaders to seal the deal on an ambitious new climate change agreement, to replace the Kyoto Protocol, in Copenhagen, Denmark this December.
"A comprehensive and equitable agreement to slow down global warming must also help developing countries to adapt to the impacts that are already under way," Ban said.
"In particular, it must provide adequate and predictable financing to support improved land management, more efficient water use and sustainable agriculture," he said.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 1994 to proclaim June 17 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought in a bid to promote public awareness and international cooperation on the area.