Deforestration & Desertification

Deforestration & Desertification

With exponential growth in human population and consequential destruction of natural vegetation and habitats of other living beings for urbanization, industrialization in both developed and developing countries, there is large scale deforestation in tropical and subtropical countries in the world.

Deforestation simply refers to cutting down of trees and the destruction of natural vegetation in an aggressive way.


Factors Responsible for Deforestation

The following factors are responsible for deforestation −

  • Rapid growth of population in the developing countries.
  • Extension of agriculture and grazing land.
  • Increasing demand for lumber, timber, paper, pulp, fuel-wood, and charcoal and other forest produce.
  • Industrialization, urbanization, and consumerism in the developed and developing countries.
  • Demand of raw material for forest-based and agro-based industries.
  • Demand of land for infrastructure such as roads, highways, railways, irrigation, electricity, telecommunication services, and civic facilities.
  • Construction of multi-purpose dams all over the world.
  • Practice of shifting cultivation in the humid-tropical regions of the world.
  • Change in food habits – a visible shift from vegetarian food to non-vegetarian food.
  • High rate of poverty in the third world countries; it is said that poverty directly or indirectly lead to deforestation.
  • Both natural and man-made forest fire.
  • Delayed administrative decision and dilatory implementation of forest laws in developing countries.


Desertification is defined by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) 1995 as land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry-sub-humid areas resulting from various factors including climate variation and human activities.

The problem of desertification is common to the susceptible dry-lands, with land degradation such as soil erosion, internal soil changes, depletion of groundwater reserves, and irreversible changes to vegetation communities.

The term desertification was coined by the French botanist, Aubreville, in 1949 to describe land degradation. Desertification is more anthropogenic (man-made) than it is natural. It is well-acknowledged that the principal agent of land degradation is human activities.

The tropical and sub-tropical lands are more prone to desertification. An estimate made by the United Nations (UN), about 40 percent of the African continent’s non-desert land is in danger of experiencing desertification. About 33 percent of Asia’s land and about 20 percent of Latin America land area are equally threatened with desertification.

Countries with extensive and severe desertification are Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Western Sahara.