UNISDR Champion tackles land degradation in the Philippines

Deforestation on the Zambales mountain range, Philippines. Photo by Flickr user treesftf
 
By Denis McClean

GENEVA, 30 August 2013 - UNISDR Champion, Senator Loren Legarda, today announced she is proposing new legislation to tackle the problem of land degradation in the Philippines which is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

Senator Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, cited Department of Agriculture estimates that 45%, or 13 million hectares, of arable land are either moderately or severely eroded due to massive deforestation and adoption of unsustainable land management practices in upland areas.

The environmental challenges in the Philippines constitute a major underlying risk factor for disasters as outlined in Priority Area Four of the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global framework agreement for disaster risk reduction. Environmental management policies can have a major impact on disaster risk reduction.

She said she has now filed “a proposed measure that will support Sustainable Land Management programmes for livelihood improvement, particularly that of upland farmers and indigenous peoples, and for the prevention of land degradation and the protection of land degradation and the protection of the environment and natural resource base.”

Senate Bill 337, the Soil and Water Conservation Act, will promote soil and water conservation technologies and approaches for sustainable land management. The Bill includes provision for a national soil and water conservation programme; the creation of model farms that will showcase water and soil conservation; and the construction of small-scale rainwater harvesting structures.

Senator Legarda said 33 million Filipinos are affected by land degradation. Around the world the number was estimated to 1.5 billion in 2008.

According to Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the percentage of total land area that is degraded increased from 15% in 1991 to 25% in 2011.

Earlier this year, Mr. Gnacadja said: “Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.”

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