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PM raises India’s target to restore degraded land to 26 million hectares by 2030
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised India’s target for restoring degraded land from its earlier target of 21 million hectares (MH) to 26 million hectares (MH) by 2030. The announcement was made by PM Modi while speaking at the high level segment at 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP) to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). UNCCD COP-14 is being hosted by India this time and as many as 196 countries, 70 environment ministers and over 8,000 delegates from across globe are participating in 12-day conference from September 2 to September 13 being held at Greater Noida. Agenda of UN conference is to reverse degradation of land and fix critical gaps in its management. Key Highlights At the conference the participant nations are brainstorming on ways to tackle land desertification with over 120 countries setting land degradation neutrality target for 2030. The outcome of the conference i.e. ‘New Delhi Declaration’, which will lay down measures to combat desertification, will be released. PM Modi reiterated India’s resolve to tackle the problem of plastic waste and stressed upon initiatives for greater South-South Cooperation in addressing issues of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation. He also called upon leadership of UNCCD to conceive global water action agenda which is central to Land Degradation Neutrality strategy, which has been defined by parties to UNCCD as ‘a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems’. India will also setup a global technical support institute for UNCCD member countries for their capacity building and support regarding Land Degradation Neutrality. India uses remote sensing and space technology for multiple applications such as land restoration, therefore, PM announced that India could help friendly countries develop land restoration strategies through cost effective satellite technology. Why addressing land degradation important? When we address degraded lands, we also address water scarcity, thereby augmenting water supply, enhancing water recharge, slowing down water run-off and retaining moisture in soil are all parts of a holistic land and water strategy. Thus, restoring health of land is critical for sustainable development. Land desertification is the biggest environment challenge which the world is facing as latest data shows that one third (33%) of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are emitted from land degradation. Climate change along with human activities have facilitated land degradation which poses threat to humanity and potentially dire consequences and nearly 50% of people on earth are affected by impact of climate change and natural calamities. Significance Since 30% of India’s total land area has been hit by land degradation, therefore the country has high stakes in land restoration. If this target of restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 is realised, it would be one of the biggest environmental achievements for the country. Some steps taken in the direction In between 2015-2017, tree cover and forest cover of country increased by 0.8 million hectares. Centre government has created Jal Shakti Ministry to recognise value of water in all forms. Zero liquid discharge policy has been imposed on many industries.