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Desertification in Italy and in the world, a process that affects us all, directly and indirectly, and which is defined as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid dry areas attributable to various causes including climatic variations and human activities”.
These are the words used in 1994 to explain it to the world from Paris during the UNCCD - United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries experiencing Serious Drought and / or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. Desertification is a climatic-environmental process that leads to the degradation of soils and the sad disappearance of the biosphere as well as the transformation of the natural environment into a desert. It may be natural, connected to climatic dynamics, but today it often exists the hand of man. Let's see how and to what scenario all this is leading us.
Desertification: an increasingly topical problem
It is to be considered a usually irreversible process, the Desertification, and today it affects all continents, obviously with different intensity and effects. Even those who do not see the consequences in front of their homes, or in their own country or holiday resort, must not deny that Desertification it constitutes a serious danger first of all but not only for the arid and dry regions of the planet which, today, constitute 50% of the emerged lands.
Even so, we are still talking about over 100 countries, over a billion inhabitants, in danger. We must then take into account the less immediate but equally serious consequences Desertification has, even in our house, if we really want to think in an egocentric perspective.
Desertification: causes and consequences
As I anticipated, often the Desertification it is caused or at least accelerated by human activities, sometimes it has its origin in the intensive exploitation carried out by the population that settles in a certain territory to cultivate it. Another case of Desertification of human origin it is that deriving from industrial and “grazing” activities.
However, there is not a single cause that alone triggers this process out of thin air but a series of contributing causes to be combined with factors that predispose certain areas to become prey to Desertification. On the "natural" side they are for example the presence of delicate ecosystems, or the morphology and a scarce vegetation cover. The anthropogenic factors are numerous, the most frequent are: deforestation, agriculture, urbanization, pollution, fires and the unsustainable exploitation of resources as well as the bad but unfortunately frequent practices of irrigation and salinization of the soils.
Considering the consequences of the Desertification, this phenomenon can be considered one of the major economic, social and environmental problems in most countries of the world. In some, it reduces the fertility of soils and, therefore, the ability of an ecosystem to produce services.
In other cases, if no direct effects are seen, there is a continuous and increasingly abundant migration of people, of entire peoples, fleeing from Desertification in progress in their homeland and which makes it impossible for them to survive where they were born and raised.
Desertification in Italy
Currently there are also areas in our country directly interested in Desertification, in Sicily for example, recent studies speak of areas at risk for 70% of the extension of the region, in Puglia the percentage drops to 57%, in Molise to 58% and in Basilicata to 55%.
As regards Sardinia, Marche, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Abruzzo and Campania, the percentage of areas at risk varies from 30 to 50%. Photographing the Desertification already effective today in our country, it is estimated that 4.3% of the Italian territory is already considered sterile and 4.7% has suffered phenomena of desertification.
By restricting the search for causes to the Italian context, we can also mention a natural one such as decrease in precipitation, which caused less water input into the surface water network, such as rivers and lakes.
Desertification in the world
In addition to Africa, which deserves a separate paragraph due to the seriousness of the situation, other areas of our planet are also affected, indeed, by Desertification. In Asia, Oceania and South America, for example, and to a lesser extent in Europe and North America. In general there are at least 100 countries directly affected by this process and we have the 70% of the areas at risk: over a quarter of the earth's surface are already considered arid areas to which the temperate ones, such as the Mediterranean area, are not out of danger.
When you want to point the finger only at agriculture, for what is happening, you are wrong, or at least, this activity is not the only one to be held guilty. At the base of the Desertification in Italy and in the world there is, reasoning, a whole set of productive activities, including the tertiary sector, tourism in the first place, industry, extractive activities, the advancement ofurbanization and overbuilding.
Desertification in Africa: the continent most affected
There is no doubt that in the world the area most affected by the Desertification is Africa. In this continent that faces the Mediterranean like us, more than two thirds of the cultivated lands are considered to be at high risk. This as regards the very near future, unfortunately, but also in the past Africa has become "famous" for droughts that hit areas on the southern border of the Sahara, the Sahel drought, around the seventies. Even the horn of Africa, around the nineties, it has always become known for the Desertification that has caused the death of more than 100 thousand people.
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