June 5, 2024

REC Caucasus Joins World Environment Day 2024 Celebrations: A Focus on Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience

REC Caucasus Joins World Environment Day 2024 Celebrations: A Focus on Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience

In conjunction with the global observance of World Environment Day on June 5th, the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus is uniting with the international community to confront the triple planetary crisis: climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. According to estimated climate change scenarios for Georgia, the average annual temperature is projected to increase from 1.6°C to 3°C throughout the country in the period of 2041-2070 compared to the period of 1971-2000. Additionally, Eastern Georgia is expected to experience a decrease in average annual precipitation by 9%. In Western and Eastern Georgia, cultivated lands comprise 28–40% and 29–33% of the total catchment areas, respectively. Eroded arable soils in Georgia encompass 205,700 hectares, accounting for 30.5% of the total plowland area, which includes 110,500 hectares (16.4%) of slightly eroded soils, 74,400 hectares (11%) of moderately eroded soils, and 20,800 hectares (3.1%) of strongly eroded soils. These changes will have profound effects on various sectors, including agriculture, forestry, water resources, and biodiversity, impacting not only human livelihoods but also the delicate balance of land ecosystems.

Through the new initiative “Transforming Degraded Drylands,” REC Caucasus aims to protect and revive dryland ecosystems by restoring degraded lands in the Dedoplistskaro Biosphere Reserve, located in the southeastern part of Georgia-in Kakheti Region.

The program aims the restoration of 10,000 hectares of land and dry ecosystems, improvement of land use practices covering 20,000 hectares of landscape, and the mitigation of 1.7 million metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 5,000 individuals, and more that 100 vulnerable with women constituting 53%, are expected to benefit from these initiatives (total of 15 villages). 

Moreover, the program showcases innovation and transformation by establishing the first biosphere reserves (Dedophlistskaro and 3 Aalazani biosphere reserves) in Georgia and the South Caucasus Region, accelerating land restoration, drought resilience & desertification progress 

The importance of land restoration cannot be overstated. Every dollar invested in restoration can yield up to $30 in ecosystem services, including improved livelihoods, poverty reduction, and increased resilience to extreme weather events. Restoration also contributes to carbon storage, aiding in the mitigation of climate change and preventing species extinctions.

In conclusion, World Environment Day 2024 presents a significant opportunity for Georgia to showcase its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. By prioritizing land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience, Georgia addresses national challenges while contributing to global efforts to combat the triple planetary crisis. The leadership and dedication demonstrated by Georgia and REC Caucasus serve as an inspiration for other nations, ensuring a healthier, more resilient planet for future generations.