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Putting desertification on the map UNEP launches world atlas of desertification

Rome/Nairobi, 9 October 1997 - Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), today launched the second edition of UNEP's World Atlas of Desertification during the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, underway this week in Rome, Italy.

The World Atlas of Desertification summarizes the current state of scientific knowledge on the drylands of the globe. The Atlas clearly shows that desertification is one of the world's most pressing environmental problems, and that it is a global issue which is accelerating.

"Most maps show land. Maps in this atlas show land that is lost, or is in the process of being lost", said Ms. Dowdeswell. "Around the globe we are literally 'losing ground'. About 130 million hectares can no longer be used for food production. This is about the land area of France, Italy and Spain combined", she said.

The global extent of the problem of desertification was indicated in the first edition of the World Atlas of Desertification published by UNEP in 1992. The new edition has been extensively revised and expanded to cover related environmental issues, including concerns surrounding biodiversity, climate change and the availability of water.

Social and economic conditions (poverty and food security) also have a major impact on the progress and control of desertification. Over one billion people are at risk - they face malnutrition, or worse, through decreasing productivity of the soil on which they depend for food. The Atlas includes new estimates of population in the areas at risk and also includes a study of the impacts of desertification on migration and refugees.

Over 100 countries have ratified the Convention to Combat Desertification which was negotiated following the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

Note to journalists: The Atlas will be launched at 12.15 p.m. on Thursday 9 October at the headquarters of FAO in Rome. In Rome, contact the CCD Secretariat at FAO on telephone 58807.

Copies (price œ145.00) can be purchased from SMI (Distribution Services) Limited, P.O. Box 119, Stevenage, Herts SG1 4TP, UK, Tel:+44 1438 748111, Fax: 748844, Email:

For more information, contact:
Franklin Cardy, Director, Land Unit, UNEP,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya.
Fax: 254-2-623284, Tel: 254-2-623251,

Or, Robert Bisset, UNEP Media and Communications Officer, Nairobi.
Tel: 623084,

UNEP News Release 1997/61

Thursday 09 Oct 1997
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