Korea Forest Service (KFS) Minister Lee Don-koo, center, shakes hands with China’s Vice Minister of the State Forestry Administration Yin Hong, left, and Mongolia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism Gansukh Luimed after signing a memorandum of understanding at the Changwon Exhibition Convention Center in South Gyeongsang Province, Tuesday, to strengthen the partnership between the three countries to prevent sandy dust storms.
/ Courtesy of KFS
By Kim Tae-gyu
CHANGWON ― Over the next five years, Korea will channel 3 billion won ($2.6 million) to plant millions of trees along the border areas of China and Mongolia to prevent the expansion of yellow dust storms here.
Toward that end, the Korea Forest Service (KFS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Tuesday with the two neighboring states on the sidelines of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) conference in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province.
The KFS is hosting the biennial event, the first general meeting of a United Nations organization held here. It will run through Friday.
``We will carry out the project in deserts and dry land in China and Mongolia. In consideration of the budget size, millions of trees will be planted,’’ a KFS official said.
``As China and Mongolia will join the program on their own, the number of trees is expected to increase substantially. It would help reduce the production of yellow dust storms.’’
Over the long haul, the KFS is striving to draw financial support from other nations that suffer from the yellow dust storms including North Korea, Japan and Russia.
Originating in the deserts of Mongolia and China, sandy dust plagues Korea, mostly during the spring. The airborne particles tend to generate health problems as they contain toxic materials.
Yellow dust storms were observed an average of 3.7 times a year between 1971 and 2000 but the annual figure has risen more than 10 times in the last decade.
KFS Minister Lee Don-koo said that the MOU showcases the country’s efforts in spearheading the global war against desertification. Every year, a territory similar to the size of South Korea faces degradation to desert status.
``Up until now, the UNCCD host countries have taken the job of mediators. But we hope to take a more active role so that the gathering’s various initiatives can be implemented efficiently,’’ Lee said in a statement.
In the meantime, the high-level meeting of the ongoing UNCCD endorsed the Changwon Initiative, under which the Bonn, Germany-based international organization will increase its efforts in fighting desertification.
The UNCCD agreed to set up an ad-hoc advisory group of technical experts in order to refine a set of impact indicators for monitoring and assessing land degradation. The general meeting is scheduled to give the ultimate green light to it Friday.
The KFS hopes to encourage the UNCCD to adopt the goal of stopping the expansion of deserts or dry land by 2030 through planting more trees across the world.