India will restore 50 lakh hectares of its degraded land by 2030, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 14) to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to tackle the issue of land degradation in Noida today. With this conference, the Indian government has assumed the COP Presidency from China for the next two years.
Modi said,“human development is closely associated with the state of the environment, and climate change impacts both biodiversity and land.” Apart from the introduction of zero budget natural farming, soil health card, usage of bio-fertilizer, he said that India would ban single-use plastic in coming years and the government will focus more on recycling and disposal of that plastic.
Quoting data he explained, “six billion U.S. dollars have been released by the Indian government last week for the development of forest land.”
Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively arid or semi-arid area of land becomes a desert, by losing its water resources as well as vegetation and biodiversity. This degradation happens due to many factors like over-exploitation of land and water through human activity, climate change and even wind erosion. According to the UNCCD assessment, three out of four hectares of land have been changed from their natural state, and the productivity of about one in four hectares of land is declining.
“One-third of the world (328.7 million hectares) is facing the problem of land desertification, and land surface of the earth has been changed in the past decades. Agricultural land has transformed into habitat or industries. So the demand for food is only going up, and by 2050, the population growth is expected to increase by 2 billion people. At this juncture, only scientific intervention and innovation can tackle the challenge of land degradation and restore land”, said UNCCD Scientist Dr Barron Joseph Orr.
Prime Minister Modi also emphasized on South-South cooperation to share knowledge and technology to reduce land degradation. “We urge UNCCD to frame a worldwide water strategy,” he said.
Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said 122 countries have already agreed to make the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving land degradation neutrality as a national target. “India is already on the right track to restore degraded land, we have already achieved fifteen thousand square kilometres of green cover, but our target is having 33% of green cover in India”, he said.
Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of United Nations thanked Prime Minister for his leadership.
Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ibrahim Thiaw drew attention to the warnings sounded by recent scientific data. He said, “the future of children is not only in the hand of parents but in humanity as a whole.” He asserted to consider three points: equality, partnerships and scale to achieve land degradation neutrality.
He also thanked the Government of India for hosting the International Conference.
Besides ministers and officials from 196 countries, over 6,000 delegates, scientists, global leaders and NGOs will be sharing their expertise at this COP 14 to achieve effective land use and sustainable land management goal.
The author is covering UNCCD COP 14 under Earth Journalism Network Media Fellowship.