Friday, May 04, 2007

SYRIA: DESERTIFICATION THREATENS 65 PERCENT OF COUNTRY

(AKI) - Rising heat, dwindling rainfall and soil erosion threaten to reduce some 65 percent of Syria's territory into a desert wasteland, a Damascus-expert has said, contradicting official reports that desertification threatens 18 percent of the country. "The temperature increase, together with erosion are killing plant-life and causing fertile topsoil to disappear, as is the squandering of water resources and inadequate irrigation practices," the expert, speaking on condition of anonimity, told Adnkronos International (AKI).


According to the expert, rising salt levels are threatening the fertility of 50 percent of land lying along the banks of the River Euphrates with some 6,000 hectares of land a year becoming not suitable for agricultural production due to illegal irrigation.

The authorities are failing to modernise the irrigation systems that would help curb the desertification process, she said.

Encroaching desert due to drought is one of the main challenges facing Syria, admits Muhammad al-Oudat, a senior environmental researcher with Syria's national nuclear energy entity.

"Deforestation, the illegal construction of roads in rural and suburban areas as well as uncontrolled grazing as well rising temperatures," are the main causes for desertification, al-Oudat told AKI.

The government is working with the United Nations Development Programme to develop projects aimed at safeguarding the environment and to offset the desertification threat, he said.

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