Ambassador Nadav Eshcar strives to fight against desertification and drought for a greater future

Update: 08:00 | 17/06/2020
TGVN. Ambassador Nadav Eshcar and the Israeli Embassy to Vietnam vow to devote their all to the fight against desertification and drought.
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Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam Nadav Eschar.

The United Nations declared June 17 as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Israeli Ambassador Nadav Eschar wants to share his thought on this day:

When exploring outer space, we can see countless lifeless, desert covered planets. The Earth in that sense is a unique planet – covered in water and flora, full of life. However, taking a closer look, it is evident that not all parts of Earth have been as fortunate. There are vast arid areas of barrenness, in which life is almost impossible.

Humans are the only ones who can prevail against the desert. The man, as a thinking being, looking for solutions, has managed to overcome the difficulties and live in the desert. He has managed to find some water and shade, as well as identifying suitable crops and animals, which can exist in such an extreme climate, with almost no water.

As humankind evolved into the technological era in which we live today, it learned to develop new and sophisticated ways to live in the desert and revive it. Nonetheless, the excessive exploitation of natural resources has brought about global warming and an ongoing climate crisis. Humans have over-exhausted the resources, and consequently deserts began to expand to ever-growing areas. Fertile ground for agriculture has become scarce and is deteriorating, fresh water is getting saltier, and no longer suitable for drinking or irrigation.

As an Israeli, coming from a plot of land in the heart of the Middle East, I realize the value of freshwater scarcely found and the importance of the technology and knowledge enlisted to combat desertification. I look at Vietnam with unhidden envy. This land, abundant in mighty rivers, which I can only dream of. Fertile agricultural soil where top-quality rice in flooded paddy fields and a variety of wonderful fruits are grown. Frequent heavy rainfall generously waters the land. Everything here grows by itself. In my faraway homeland - if the soil will not be artificially watered, the land will immediately turn yellow and dry.

When my grandfather and his generation arrived in Israel, they discovered a harsh, hot and dry country. They had to revive it, merely in order to survive. They had to find creative solutions, to create freshwater out of nowhere. They discovered a way to use very little water in order to irrigate many plants – ‘drip irrigation’. According to this method, each plant receives the exact amount of water needed directly to its root. No more and no less. This technique was developed over the course of decades, and with time, it has become progressively advanced. Nowadays, the plant also receives the necessary fertilization alongside the water. This process is computerized and it has automated quality control.

There is another great benefit in addition to the immense save of water - By maximizing the utilization of water, the need for flooding becomes redundant. the surplus of water used in flooding, usually evaporates, leaving the minerals in the soil, and gradually ruin it. Therefore, irrigation by flooding in fact, transforms arable land to less fertile, and thus accelerating desertification and the destruction of the soil.

Another technological development is water desalination. The Israeli scientist Alexander Zarchin has developed a method called ‘reverse osmosis’.

In this chemical process, the seawater is separated into the drinking water and the minerals. Israel was the first country to use desalination plants on an industrial scale. Today, almost half of Israel’s drinking water originates in the salty water of the Mediterranean Sea.

The harsh unfriendly climate in Israel, the constant lack of water, the dry, un-fertile lands, have compelled the Israelis to develop an expertise in water. Born from the lack of choice, the need of survival and the harsh climate, a world-renown cadre of experts in water emerged in Israel. In the midst of the Negev desert, in southern Israel, resides the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research. It is one of the leading academic institutes in the world addressing desertification.

In the past years, we are experiencing a global climate crisis in magnitude like never before. Even Vietnam, which was always a country abundant in water and fauna, has been highly affected by climate change. The mighty Mekong River, pouring into the sea in the provinces of the Delta in southern Vietnam, has suffered a severe decrease in its water level as well as its water flow rate, ultimately causing the intrusion of salty seawater into the river and its banks. Additionally, the reduced rainfall caused large areas, especially in the coastal plain from Quang Ngai to Binh Thuan, to become significantly drier.

Drought and lack of water are new phenomena in Vietnam, and many of the local residents find themselves helpless and unable to self-provide of the land.

The Vietnamese government understands the magnitude of the crisis and the fact that it is likely to worsen in years to come. More and more arable lands will be affected by the crisis and become distressed. The government is willing to allocate the necessary energy and resources needed to the farmers in these provinces to help them cope with the crisis and to adjust its policies to the new reality.

Israel and Vietnam established their diplomatic relations 27 years ago, continuously tightening the cooperation between them in many fields. Coping with water shortage is a field in which the two countries conduct effective and meaningful cooperation. Israel is happy to share with its friends the knowledge, which it has obtained for decades. The experience and expertise that Israel has accumulated the hard way are now at Vietnam’s disposal. I believe there is no reason for Vietnam to go through this tough path as well, but rather it should utilize the knowledge which already exists in Israel, to bring about solutions that will ease the hardships and distress much faster.

Vietnam is an agricultural country and is the source of high-quality food not only for its residents but also for the whole world. We, too, in Israel, enjoy the agricultural crop of Vietnam, and we have a sense of fulfillment when Vietnamese farmers choose to use Israeli technologies and equipment.

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The UN has declared June 17 as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. Thus, it has reinforced the problem of desertification as a global challenge and has acted to raise awareness in order to combat it. We, in the Israeli Embassy in Vietnam, do not waste time and devote these days to promote this topic. Therefore, we will cooperate with the Vietnam Academy of Water Resources and conduct an online seminar about the ways of coping with the intrusion of salty water to the rivers, as well as proposing solutions in the field of smart irrigation and growing crops in salty soil.

The Israeli expert Mr. Shlomo Kramer will lead the seminar, participated by representatives of Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mekong Delta's Provinces. Additionally, we will conduct business seminars led by representatives of Israeli companies in the fields of water management, agriculture and fishery, in the provinces of Kien Giang and Ca Mau, where they will present their solutions.

Climate change is severe, and its effects on us are terrible. However, I wholeheartedly believe that if all of us, Vietnamese, Israelis and others, join hands, we shall prevail.

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