JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - Environmental experts are ringing alarm bells, saying decades-long climate and environmental changes in Sudan have exacerbated social and political instability, fueling the monthslong conflict in the country centered around access to land, water and other vital resources.
The current conflict in Sudan, rooted in global geopolitics and the historical legacy of the previous leadership of now-deposed authoritarian leader Omar al-Bashir, is increasingly being attributed to climate change.
In a May report, Practical Action, a Britain-based international development organization, highlighted the impact of climate change in Sudan, which includes the encroachment of the desert southward and a stark reduction in rainfall.
Akinyi Walender, Practical Action Africa director, underscored the consequences of climate change in Sudan, including heightened drought, extreme rainfall variability, depletion of water sources and desertification spanning millions of hectares of land.
Speaking to VOA via WhatsApp, Walender said the conversion of migratory routes and pastureland into farmland has significantly disrupted "the natural balance" and accelerated desertification.
The United Nations says desertification is the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by climate change and mainly human activities - unsustainable farming, mining, overgrazing and clear-cutting of land.
The U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification says approximately 65% of Sudan's land is affected by desertification.
Walender said climate change and conflict in Sudan are caught in a destructive cycle, potentially worsening the situation in the East African nation.
"The effects of war, such as the destruction of infrastructure, displacement of communities, and the use of airstrikes and heavy artillery, intensify the environmental damage in Sudan," she said.
The International Organization for Migration, the U.N.'s migration agency, says nearly 7.1 million people are internally displaced within Sudan, 3.8 million being newly displaced due to the country's monthslong conflict between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Force.
Awadalla Hamid, an environmental conservation manager at Practical Action in Sudan's North Darfur State, said human activities have taken a toll on natural resources and ecosystems, intensifying environmental degradation.
Hamid said the displacement of communities in Sudan has led to further environmental damage.
"As people are forced to flee their homes, they often settle in temporary camps or new areas, leading to uncontrolled land-use changes, overexploitation of resources and increased pressure on fragile environments," Hamid said. "The influx of displaced populations can also result in deforestation, soil erosion and pollution."
The U.N. Environment Program says environmental destruction during conflicts has a direct impact on public health due to air and water pollution. The use of airstrikes and heavy artillery, while causing immediate destruction, also results in long-term environmental consequences, the U.N says.
Walender said addressing the environmental consequences of conflict requires a holistic approach -peacebuilding, conflict resolution and sustainable environmental practices.
Swar Adam, who fled violence in South Darfur and currently resides in Kosti, White Nile State, Sudan, told VOA his displacement has left him unable to tend to his livestock, which is his livelihood.
"It is very difficult at the moment to go and identify your cattle in such a situation," Adam said. "I am not sure if they are now being fed on good grazing land or not. This is the situation I am in now."
This story originated in VOA English to Africa's South Sudan In Focus Program.