Reversing land degradation is on India’s radar - GulfToday

Reversing land degradation is on India’s radar

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

India Drought

A farmer grazes his cattle on a parched field in Maharashtra. Reuters

India is to host a major UN environmental conference in September that will witness the participation of around 197 countries to discuss global strategies required to combat drought and desertification

Events leading up to and the main sessions of the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will take place from 29 August t to 14 September 2019 at the India Expo Center and Mart in New Delhi, India.

Over 5,000 representatives from participating countries drawn from national, regional and local governments, science and research communities, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations and all forms media will address these issues during the two-week event.

The global Conference is expected to review the progress made, especially during the last two years, to control and reverse further loss of productive land from desertification, land degradation and drought. These are considered growing threats to peace and security in both developed and developing countries due to the widespread loss of livelihoods for communities and even entire regions.

Earlier this month, during World Day to Combat Desertification celebrations, Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, officially launched the logo of the upcoming COP14.

Speaking on the occasion, the minister said, “India will lead the world in reversing land degradation and addressing desertification.’’ He emphasized the dedication of the Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improving soil health, restoring of degraded lands as means for increasing farmer’s income, building climate change resilience and improving water management with focus on most degraded and vulnerable land.  

The Union Minister further highlighted that with about 30% of country’s total geographical area being affected by land degradation; India has high stakes and stands strongly committed to the Convention.

He also launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India, through a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), through this flagship project aims to develop and adapt best practices and monitoring protocols for the Indian states and build capacity within the five pilot states on FLR and Bonn Challenge. This will be eventually scaled up across the country through subsequent phases of the project.

The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030. India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.

India is strongly committed to achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030 and further reversing land degradation through restoration. A multi-stakeholder expert consultation during the event brought together 100 experts from national and state-level government agencies, research organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and youth groups to discuss voluntary LDN targets and a legacy program to be launched during COP 14.

The data and information submitted over the last two years by 135 of the 196 countries that are party to the Convention is the most extensive yet reported by governments on the national status of land degradation and the drivers behind it. These country reports combined with several major scientific assessments will be especially helpful in guiding the Conference to the most sustainable and cost-effective solutions in the global efforts to avoid and halt further loss of productive land and incentivize the recovery of degrading areas in order to improve the living conditions of the most affected and vulnerable populations.

Some of the new and relevant issues that are on the radar of the governments include the interaction between climate and land, optimizing the mix of food, energy and environment demands on land, the rural-urban link, the negative feedback of land degradation on poverty and human health, the tremendous opportunity sustainable value chains may provide, the role of the faith communities and the rapidly growing global movement on land restoration both of which are essential to achieving land degradation neutrality, which is a pivotal Agenda 2030 target.