Photo taken on Dec. 5, 2017 shows a conference held to mark World Soil Day, at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Nearly 100 diplomats, academics and entrepreneurs attended the conference. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Soil, a crucial element in sustainable development, requires attentive conservation, said United Nations (UN) official Nandhini Krishna, calling for commitment and investment from all stakeholders to prevent further land degradation.
Sustainable land management, sustainable forestry management practices, water and soil conservation should be done to reclaim or regenerate land that has already degraded, said Krishna, liaison officer for UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in her speech at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.
The ground, land and soil, prone to neglect, are the very basic building blocks of our lives and economy, generating 50 percent of ecosystem services and 33 trillion U.S. dollars per year.
Soil is also pivotal to the storage and management of fresh water resources, said the UN official.
The ecosystem services that land provides will have to increase exponentially to sustain the planet, as agricultural production needs to increase by about 70 percent globally to feed the expected population of 9 billion in 2050, Krishna said.
That would mean finding an estimated 6 million hectares of land for agricultural production annually and twice the amount of water by 2050, she added.
The painful fact is that soil degradation is increasing rapidly in spite of fast growing demand, with a quarter of the world's land highly degraded, said Krishna, adding that more than half of all agricultural land has already degraded.
The problem could lead to the loss of two thirds of all arable land by 2025, plunging millions of farmers into poverty and igniting conflicts and migration, according to the official.
World leaders had not realized that land degradation was a global challenge until 2012, she said. However, progress has been made as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal went a step further with the inclusion of the commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.
"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself," Krishna quoted former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt at the end of her speech at the UN conference.
Nearly 100 diplomats, academics and entrepreneurs attended the conference to mark World Soil Day which falls on Dec. 5.