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Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005
Desertification in China, Mongolia a problem for Japan
The spreading desertification in China and Mongolia is no longer just someone else's concern; it's posing a health risk in this country and affecting Japanese businesses, a senior U.N. official in charge of efforts to curb the problem said Wednesday.
In the past two decades, sandstorms in China and Mongolia have increased from once a year to as many as 10 due to deforestation and agricultural practices, said Hama Arba Diallo, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.
The intensified sandstorms, Diallo said, bring dust across the Korean Peninsula and Japan, causing respiratory problems and economic damage in Japan, especially in the airline business.
"Because the dust is so intense, flights have to be canceled" in such places as Hokkaido, where the sand falls, Diallo said in an interview. "If it is not addressed, it is going to be worse."
Diallo, in Japan for a five-day visit until Friday, welcomed rising awareness among politicians here about the problem of desertification, particularly the sandstorms.
China, Mongolia and other nations, including Africa, where desertification is considered the most severe, have mapped out separate action programs and the international community has provided support, including $1.48 million from Japan in 2004.
Although Diallo praised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's commitment to double aid to African nations in the next three years and to cancel the debt owed by poor countries, he said more measures should be taken.
"What is being done is important, but it is not sufficient," Diallo said.
He said the Japan International Cooperation Agency and other aid organizations knowledgeable about combating land degradation should take stronger action with more resources.