United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has raised urgency for saving forests worldwide and keeping these healthy, warning such water-rich ecosystems’ degradation and global population growth are elevating over a billion people’s risk for water scarcity and water-stressed conditions by 2025.
“As the global population grows and demands for water escalate, safeguarding the water-providing capacity of forests is becoming more urgent,” Ban said in his message for this year’s observance of the annual International Day of Forests (IDF).
He stressed the need to protect and rehabilitate forests worldwide, saying these ecosystems are central to future prosperity of countries and stability of Earth’s climate.
“Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,” he said.
Ban made the call as studies show forests are reeling from years of environmental degradation and other threats, jeopardizing these ecosystems’ ability to provide ecological, economic, social and health services essential to survival on Earth.
“By 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity,” the UN chief warned.
“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet,” said Ban.
He said forested catchments account for some three quarters of all freshwater used for farms, industry and homes.
“City dwellers in Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro and many other major cities rely on forested areas for a significant portion of their drinking water,” he noted.
Protecting and restoring forested watersheds can help lower cost of building new infrastructure for water purification, he also said.
Ban further said forests are key to addressing climate change.
“Forests provide one of the most cost-effective and efficient natural carbon capture and storage systems,” he said.
Citing latest available data, Ban said the Earth is losing about seven million hectares of its natural forests annually.
An estimated 50 million hectares of forest land are burned every year.