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Friday, Aug. 25, 2006

Sandstorm drop belies west China desertification


Staff writer

The declining number of sandstorms affecting Japan in the last two years does not mean desertification has run its course in western China, an official of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification said Thursday.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hama Arba Diallo, executive secretary of the UNCCD, feared that growing deserts will cause serious problems beyond the immediate region.

"(Desertification) is a problem that needs to be treated," Diallo told reporters. "If it is not treated, it spreads."

The adverse effects of desertification in western China have been visible in Japan. Sandstorms that carry the Gobi desert's "kousa" yellow sand eastward increased substantially since 2000.

According to the Meteorological Agency, yellow sand sightings in Japan during 2004 reached a high of 1,183, compared to 259 in 1999.

Although the number made an uncanny drop to 169 in 2004 and 497 last year, it would be a mistake to acknowledge the decline as an improvement of the situation, Diallo claimed.

"It doesn't mean that the problem has been solved," he said. "Solutions that are being implemented in the area are not believed to yield those results in such a quick period of time."

Diallo urged additional financial support as well as technical support from the Japanese government to combat the problem, adding that "land which is fixed is land which can be used again."

The United Nations has proclaimed 2006 as the International Year of Deserts and Desertification and has been promoting efforts to stop the spread of deserts. 2006 marks the 10-year anniversary of UNCCD's entering into force.

Diallo was in Japan to raise awareness of global desertification and to participate in a Friday symposium in Tokyo and another one Sunday in Tottori Prefecture.



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