by Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Governments and industry should invest heavily in forests conservation to revitalize action on climate change and hasten achievement of key sustainable development goals, the UN environmental agency UNEP said Tuesday as the International Day of Forests was marked globally.
Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a commentary published by Kenya's Daily Nation that forests are directly linked to survival of humanity owing to the abundant ecosystem services they provide.
"Forests offer greater value when they are kept intact instead of being chopped down for timber or converted to pastures, highways or mining pits," Solheim said.
The United Nations General Assembly in 2012 designated March 21 as the International Day of Forests to raise global awareness on their critical role in advancing green and inclusive development.
Solheim noted this year's forests day offers an opportunity to reflect on forests' central role in mitigating adverse impacts of climate change like droughts and water scarcity.
He warned that forest depletion will only worsen poverty, food and energy crises, disease and instability.
"Without essential functions provided by forests, we have a world where food shortages are the norm and power blackouts are common," Solheim said.
A 2012 UNEP study revealed that destruction of Kenya's main forested catchment could cost the East African nation 30 million dollars annually.
The report noted that destruction of forests around Kenya's largest water had compromised agricultural activities, power generation and tourism.
Solheim emphasized that reclaiming forests could offer an ideal buffer against climate change linked droughts that are occurring in Kenya with higher frequency and severity.
He added that enactment of deterrent laws, financial incentives to grassroots communities, robust multi-stakeholder partnership and public education are key to strengthen forests' conservation.