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10 Ways Qatar is Fighting Desertification

10 Ways Qatar is Fighting Desertification

Desertification in the Gulf region is an issue of paramount importance, and it is crucial to mitigate this phenomenon. Desertification, characterized by the deterioration of soil quality, loss of vegetation cover, and a decrease in the land's ability to support agriculture or other forms of life, has profound impacts on the environment, economy and people in our region.

Environmentally, desertification has wide-ranging consequences. It causes the loss of biodiversity and intensifies resource depletion. As the Gulf region is predominantly a dryland area, desertification is far more crucial here due to the very nature of this region. From a people's perspective, desertification can result in a food crisis. As the land becomes less productive, it becomes increasingly challenging to grow crops or raise livestock, which can lead to food shortages. On a day-to-day basis, desertification affects the health and wellbeing of people, which are intricately linked to the natural ecosystem. As soil quality deteriorates, it contributes to the release of dust and allergens, which can lead to respiratory illnesses and other health problems. Economically, desertification poses a direct economic strain due to the reduced productivity of land and gradual loss of biodiversity.

As a nation situated in a region prone to desertification, Qatar has undertaken a commendable array of initiatives to combat this pressing issue. From international agreements to grassroots campaigns, here are ten ways in which Qatar is actively fighting desertification.

1. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Since 1999, Qatar has been a party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the only internationally legally binding convention dedicated to addressing desertification. By committing to this global agreement, Qatar reaffirms its dedication to combatting desertification and the promotion of sustainable land management.
2. The Global Dryland Alliance
In 2013, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Amir of the State of Qatar, initiated the Global Dryland Alliance (GDA) during the 68th UN General Assembly. GDA serves as a means to address research, strategy and policy gaps, facilitating food security in dryland countries.
3. One Million Trees Initiative
One of the most visible actions taken to combat desertification in Qatar is the 'One Million Trees' initiative launched by the Ministry of Municipality in 2019. The program aims to significantly increase the number of parks and green spaces in Qatar. These green spaces not only enhance the environment but also act as vital lungs for the city, mitigating global warming and air pollution.
4. Greenbelt Around Doha
Qatar is actively pursuing an initiative to create a greenbelt encircling the city of Doha and its outskirts, as outlined in Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022. The goal here is to mitigate the impact of desertification factors like dusty winds and sand encroachment, while also enhancing the visual appeal of these green zones. Establishing a green belt around Doha and its surroundings will also enhance environmental and health conditions. Green spaces act as vital lungs for cities, helping combat global warming and air pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Their foliage captures airborne particles, purifying the air for all living beings. Additionally, green belts influence wind patterns, reducing speed and heat, which is crucial for mitigating environmental and health issues caused by dust and sand.
5. National Gene Bank of Local Plants
Qatar has established National Gene Bank of local plants to safeguard plant genetic resources, contributing to food security, supporting research, and aiding in the adaptation of agriculture to changing environmental conditions. This has led to the collection and preservation of roughly 70% of local plant specimens, encompassing seeds, herbarium records and DNA samples.
Fighting Desertification
6. Water Conservation in Agriculture
The country has also implemented alternative techniques to water conservation in agriculture and horticultural practices. As a result, the irrigation demand for crops and trees in Qatar has been cut by an impressive 70%. One such technique is drip irrigation systems used at almost 400 local agricultural farms across Qatar. Research is ongoing on further optimizing the resources for enhanced results.
7. International Horticultural Expo 2023
Qatar's hosting of the International Horticultural Expo 2023, under the theme 'Green Desert, Better Environment,' is another key initiative in the ongoing battle against desertification. This event, concluded earlier this year, served as a platform to showcase innovative and sustainable approaches to horticulture and agriculture in arid regions, aligning with Qatar's commitment to combating desertification. By bringing together experts, researchers and organizations from around the world, the Expo provided a valuable opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices on desert-friendly horticultural techniques and sustainable landscaping.
8. Encyclopedia of Native & Non-Native Plants
In line with Qatar's commitment to combating desertification, the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD) has developed groundbreaking resource in collaboration with Qatar Ministry of Municipality. The Encyclopedia of Native & Non-Native Plants in Eastern Arabia is a pioneering publication that offers an invaluable guide to the sustainable cultivation of plants across Eastern Arabia, spanning from Kuwait to the coast of Oman along the Arabian Gulf. Comprising six extensive volumes encompassing over 3,500 pages, it catalogues more than 800 plant species. Each entry provides in-depth information on factors such as lifespan, adaptability, cultivation methods and distinctive forms. The Encyclopedia of Native & Non-Native Plants in Eastern Arabia is one of the most comprehensive scientific archives conceived and developed about plants existing within the Eastern Arabian habitat. This resource is available for any of the countries in the Eastern Arabia region to benefit from, making it a valuable tool in our collective effort to combat desertification.
9. Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS)
Qatar’s Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) places special emphasis on sustainability challenge of land use and contamination. With more than 2,000 registered projects, GSAS has become the fastest growing green building rating system for new projects in the GCC region. Within GSAS, one of the eight core categories is the "Site" category, which encompasses a range of factors linked to land use, including land conservation, remediation, and the selection, planning and development of sites. Moreover, GSAS advocates for the incorporation of green landscaping featuring native flora, which not only enhances the urban environment but also minimizes the strain on water resources. GSAS also includes a dedicated scheme for the development and maintenance of parks, highlighting its comprehensive approach to fighting desertification in the context of urban development.
10. Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Initiatives
Qatar is actively addressing desertification through climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives outlined in the Qatar National Climate Change Action Plan. The country aims to achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a particularly ambitious target in the region. These climate efforts indirectly contribute to combatting desertification by addressing the environmental factors driving it.
Fighting Desertification