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UN food agency calls for measures to preserve natural teak forests

The United Nations food agency today called for implementing measures to preserve natural teak forests, which are currently in decline, and improve management practices of planted teak forests, to sustain the supply and quality of the wood extracted from this natural resource.

Natural teak forests teak forests grow in only four countries: India, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. According to an assessment carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), except for Thailand, the countries have registered a significant decline in teak forest hectares, as well as deterioration in the quality of teak wood – one of the most valuable hardwoods in the world.

Between 1992 and 2010, Laos lost 68,500 hectares of teak forests, India 2.1 million hectares, and Myanmar 1.1 million hectares. Thailand’s complete ban on logging in natural forests introduced in 1989, the report suggests, may have contributed to the recovery of natural teak forests, which increased by 2.9 million hectares during the same time period.

An FAO Forestry Officer, Walter Kollert, stressed that production of teak logs from natural forests will be further limited due to continuing deforestation and competition for environmental services, making it vital to put measures in place to preserve them.

“Supply trend points to a continuing decline in the volume and quality of natural teak, which results in progressive loss of genetic resources,” Mr. Kollet said. “This is why it is essential in the near future to plan, organize and implement a programme for the genetic conservation of native teak resources in the four countries with natural teak forests.”

The assessment, which was conducted in 60 tropical countries, found an opposite trend in planted teak forests. Its findings suggest that these are increasing globally, with African, Asian and Latin American private sectors heavily investing in teak to obtain hardwood.

“Although the time until trees reach harvestable dimensions is comparatively long and on average takes between 20 and 80 years, teak planting serves local communities as a savings account and in the long run helps smallholders improve their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children,” Mr. Kollert said.

Currently, Asia holds more than 90 per cent of teak resources worldwide, with India managing 39 per cent of the world’s planted teak forests. Eleven out of 14 reporting countries named India as their number one importer, absorbing 70 to 100 per cent of global teak exports. The report added that Myanmar, India and Indonesia, are also expected to maintain their position in the market as sources of premium quality teak, but the supply may be limited in the future.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41634&Cr=Forests&Cr1=

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UN Drylands Ambassador calls for greater efforts to fight desertification

With land degradation and desertification affecting 1.5 billion people across the globe, 75 per cent of them among the world’s poorest, the United Nations’ most recently-appointed Drylands Ambassador today called for greater efforts to combat the problem.

“I want us all to agree that we will become a society that is free of land degradation,” said Leila Lopes, also the holder of the Miss Universe 2011 title, at a press conference at UN Headquarters. “I want us to agree on a goal that will help us to reduce land degradation, rehabilitate more land than is being degraded. I truly believe that we can come together and create awareness about this important environmental issue.”

Drylands, or ecosystems characterised by a lack of water, cover some 40 per cent of the world’s terrain, ranging from cultivated lands and grasslands to savannas and deserts. They are home to 38 per cent of the world’s population or 2.7 billion people, and account for half of global livestock production.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) appointed Ms. Lopes as one of its Drylands Ambassadors, charged with helping raise international awareness about desertification, land degradation and drought, causes and possible solutions. Miss Lopes comes from the African region where desertification is the foremost environmental challenge – part of her home country of Angola is threatened by desertification.

In her remarks to the press, Ms. Lopes stressed that “drylands are not wastelands,” noting that they can be restored, and pledged to work hard to create awareness on the threat of land degradation. She added that she will travel to Brazil in June to participate in activities leading up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20.

Speaking at the press conference, the UNCCD Executive Secretary, Luc Gnacadja, pointed out that 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost every year as a result of land degradation. He added that land degradation and drought in drylands causes the loss of about 12 million hectares of productive land every year on which 20 billion tonnes of grains could grow.

“This is equal to 23 hectares of land transformed into man-made desert every minute,” Mr. Gnacadja said. “Sustainable land use for all and by all is an imperative. It should be the cornerstone for the green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication, and I hope that the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil will live up to this imperative.”

He highlighted two mechanisms which he said can help halt the shrinkage of fertile land. The first of these entails the management of non-degraded fertile lands in ways that do not cause degradation, thus halting further loss; while the second method calls for the restoration of already degraded lands.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41635&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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UN relief chief highlights cooperation with South-east Asia on disaster management

The United Nations relief chief today highlighted the importance of working with South-east Asian countries to implement measures to manage and reduce the risk of disasters, which affected more than 176 million people in the region last year.

During her visit to Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, met with government officials and national disaster response agencies to discuss their recent experiences in disaster management.

Both Thailand and Cambodia were affected last year by floods, and Ms. Amos stressed that the international community can learn from their experiences.

“I was encouraged by the response of the national authorities in Cambodia and Thailand and I have asked if we can be part of their lessons learned process so that the international humanitarian system can improve its support in future large scale disasters,” said Ms. Amos.

She also underlined the leading role Indonesia and Singapore have played as supporters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in disaster management.

“Indonesia and Singapore have been instrumental in driving forward an ASEAN regional agenda for disaster response to support national governments in their increasingly active and central role,” she said.

During her tour, Ms. Amos met with senior ASEAN officials and visited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she emphasized the importance of UN-ASEAN cooperation in responding to disasters.

“We are keen to support the new AHA centre so it can be up and running as soon as possible. We have offered our knowledge and expertise to help support its initiatives, which will ultimately ensure the most effective response when the next disaster strikes,” she said.

In 2011, there were 107 natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific, almost half of the worldwide total, with regional economic losses amounting to $296 billion.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41618&Cr=Disaster&Cr1=Risk

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