Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam on Thursday said that Pakistan is grappled with growing threat of expanding desertification for the last many years, which has exacerbated the country’s food insecurity, poverty, hunger levels and biodiversity loss. “But, various green initiatives have already been rolled out in various parts of the country as a part of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s world-acclaimed green agenda to combat desertification risk, which is devouring fertile lands resulting in gradual damage to the agricultural lands and loss of gains in food security, hunger, mal-nutrition and biodiversity areas,” the PM’s aide highlighted in a statement issued on occasion of the UN’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, marked every year on June 17. The day is being celebrated this year under the theme “Restoration. Land. Recovery: We build back better with healthy land”, with heightened global focus on call for turning degraded land into healthy land for sustainability of humanity, planet earth and its resources. On this day of global important, Malik Amin Aslam also re-affirmed his government’s unflinching commitment to the global action for combating desertification, drought and reclaiming decertified lands. “The green initiatives of the country aim to support in achieving the voluntary Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Targets by 2030 and also implementation of National Action Programme to Combat Desertification. “Restoring lands degraded due to outpouring desertification and seething droughts not only leads to economic resilience but also helps create jobs, raise incomes, increase food security and supports biodiversity to recover, the PM’s aide emphasised, adding, “curbing desertification is vital to slowing climate change as it locks away the planet-warming carbon emissions.” Quoting UN-supported studies, he said that nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land has undergone changes due to unsustainable human activities to meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials for industries, highways and homes. “Averting, slowing and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems now is both pressing need of the time and unprecedented for a fast recovery from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and for ensuring the sustainable survival of humanity, the planet and the resources it provides. Besides, restoring damaged ecosystems helps boost climate resilience of the systems and strengthens nature’s defences against disasters and extreme weather events such as wildfires, droughts, floods, soil erosions and dust storms,” the PM’s aide underlined. He appreciated the commitments pledged by over 100 countries to restore almost one billion hectares of the degraded land over the next decade – an area almost the size of China. “We can, for sure, deliver huge benefits for people and the planet, provided that we together restore the degraded land of one billion hectares,” Malik Amin remarked. He suggested that launching of smart land-based restoration initiatives in regions of the world hit by desertification and droughts, saying that such initiatives would be particularly helpful for women and youth, who are often the last to receive help in times of crisis. “As we enter the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, we have a real chance to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. If countries can restore the nearly 800 million hectares of degraded land they have pledged to restore by 2030, we can safeguard humanity and our planet from the looming danger,” Malik Amin stressed. Talking about state of desertification in Pakistan, the PM’s aide said that the country is predominantly a dry country, with about 80 percent of its area falling in semi-arid and arid regions. About 68 percent of the geographical area of the country lies under annual rainfall of average 250 mm; whereas, about 24 percent of the geographical area lies under annual rainfall measuring between 250- 500 mm. He said further that due to expanding aridity charachterised by adequate rains, aridity-hit areas in southern parts of the country are in grip of extreme poverty, which presumably is the result of resource constraints and inadequate opportunities for environmentally-resilient sustaining life-livelihoods such as agriculture. About 58 percent of the country’s population lives in dryland areas suffering from inadequate or declining rains, Malik Amin highlighted.