Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought
Recently, the Prime Minister delivered a keynote address at the United Nations (UN) “High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought” via video conference.
He spoke as the President of the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties (CoP) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The Dialogue will encourage all member states to adopt and implement Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets and National Drought Plans.
Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land.
Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions, particularly drought.
It is also caused by human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility.
Desertification is a consequence of severe land degradation and is defined as a process that creates arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.
It accelerates climate change and biodiversity loss, and contributes to droughts, wildfires, involuntary migration and the emergence of zoonotic infectious diseases.
Steps Taken by India:
- India is on track to achieve its national commitment on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) (Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3).
- LDN is a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.
- India is working to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
- This would contribute to India’s commitment to achieving an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (a part of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target under the 2015 Paris Agreement).
- Over the last 10 years, around 3 million hectares of forest cover has been added.
- For Example: The Banni region in Rann of Kutch in Gujarat suffers from highly degraded land and receives very little rainfall.
- In that region, land restoration is done by developing grasslands, which helps in achieving land degradation neutrality.
- Challenges Faced by Developing World:
1. Today, land degradation affects over two-thirds of the world.
2. India is assisting fellow developing countries to develop land restoration strategies.
3. A Centre of Excellence is being set up in India to promote a scientific approach towards land degradation issues. It is at Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education.
4. ICFRE, based in Dehradun, is an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Global Efforts to Check Land Degradation:
1. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): It was established in 1994, the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
2. The Delhi Declaration of 2019, signed by 14th CoP of the UNCCD, called for better access and stewardship over land, and emphasised gender-sensitive transformative projects.
3. The Bonn Challenge: To bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
4. Great Green Wall: Initiative by Global Environment Facility (GEF), where eleven countries in Sahel-Saharan Africa have focused efforts to fight against land degradation and revive native plant life to the landscape.
India’s Efforts to Check Land Degradation:
India is focusing on sustainable land and resource management for livelihood generation at community level for making the local lands healthier and productive for providing a better homeland and a better future for its inhabitants.
The National Action Programme for combating desertification was prepared in 2001 to take appropriate action in addressing the problems of desertification.
Some of the major programmes which address issues related to land degradation and desertification, being implemented currently are as follows:
1. Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana)
2. National Afforestation Programme (NAP)
3. National Mission for Green India (GIM)
4. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),
5. Soil Conservation in the Catchment of River Valley Project, Soil Health Card Scheme, etc