Importance of forests a focus of World Environment Day

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The important role of forests on which 1.6 billion people depend for their livelihoods is the focus of this year's World Environment Day observed on 5 June.

Forests provide medicines, help to maintain soil quality and to tackle climate change and are also essential for supplying water to nearly half of the world’s largest cities.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that despite such vital services, the world is losing its forests at an alarming rate of approximately 5.2 million hectares being cut down each year.

The head of UNEP Achim Steiner says it is a fallacy that technology and economic progress have made an urbanized world population less reliant on nature and natural eco-system services.

"In fact we have learned through the understanding of the impacts of climate change, the loss of eco-system services, the prospects of water shortages, the impact of environmental disasters that our dependence on nature, on a healthy and functioning set of eco-systems remains critical to human well being, to the well being of our economy and indeed to the prospects of being able to sustain and feed and provide with the basic needs an ever growing population.

This year's theme of "Forests: Natures at Your Service" also celebrates the United Nations International Year of Forests.

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