Flying over Sahara – what hope of Combat against Desertification in RIO + 20?


Brazil is on the other side of the world and I had to travel over 20 hours to reach the city of Rio de Janeiro where the Earth Summit RIO + 20 takes place. This is note writing on the flight en-route to Brazil where I have to spend over 14 hours.. 

I am in the flight en-route to Brazil to participate RIO + 20 Earth Summit. I had fallen asleep and when awakened, the plane was passing Africa. Already got bored only completing half of the 14 hour flight, I had changed the channels on the on-flight video screen to see whether there is anything interesting. The channel that shows the flight route has grabbed my attention as it indicated the flight is just passing the Sahara desert. The screen is also dotted with Lybian desert and another desert closeby. This has just taken back my memories to one of the 3 conventions that have been born in 1992 Earth Summit – UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Will RIO + 20 will pump some energy to the combat against desertification..?

While attention is paid to other 2 conventions – i.e. the Climate Change convention and Biodiversity Convention – the Desertification convention doesn’t seems to grab that much momentum. But when I see the mega sizes of the deserts shown on the on-flight video screen, I realized that it is something that should not be ignored, specially on this era where Climate Change is threatening to disturb the rainfall patterns. In Sri Lanka there are evidences that the boundaries of the Dry Zone has expanded. Internationally acclaimed Climate Change experts such as Prof.Mohan Munasinghe who has been the vice chair of UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are warning that the dry zone may get drier as a result of the changing climates. So the convention to combat desertification surely has its importance even on local level. Though it might not create monstrous deserts s Sahara, the land quality will surely be degraded in the future. 

Searching on the web, I found out that the Desertification convention is also the only convention that has been stemming from direct recommendation of the Rio Conference’s Agenda 21. The convention has been subsequently adopted in 1984 and came into force in December 1996 with 194 countries has signed it. The desertification convention is recognized as the only legally binding framework setup to address the problems of desertification.

Recognizing the importance of the addressing the problem, United Nations has also dedicated 17th of June every year as the International Day to Combat Desertification. The timing of this international day could not get better as it is fallen within the timeframe of RIO + 20 event. As the UNCCD website says there are lot to expect in RIO+20 pavilion and I’m excited to explore what is lined up on the need to combat desertification.

Will RIO + 20 helps to promote wise land use that could avoid desertification – there is only few days to get answers.

I think it has taken more than 20 minutes to compile this note so far and the onflight video screen still indicate we are still passing Sahara. I wish if the Rio + 20 make some important breakthrough, if not the time that will take to pass the deserts like Sahara will surely be extended. Let’s expect that the RIO + 20 will pump some new energy in combating the desertification as it is yet another area that can not be ignored anymore…!!

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