Modi makes green pitch, raises restoration target

Greater Noida: 10 Sept, 2019 (Hindustan Times) 

Jayashree Nandi

letters@hindustantimes.com

greater Noida : Degraded land spanning 26 million hectares (ha) in India will be restored by 2030, PM Narendra Modi announced at the 14th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14 UNCCD) being hosted by India, taking up the target by five million from the current 21 million ha.

About 96 million hectares, or 29.23%, of India’s land area is undergoing degradation, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) land atlas 2016. Around 27% of the degraded land will be restored by 2030, according to the new target.

“Going forward, India would be happy to propose initiatives for greater South-South cooperation in addressing issues of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation,” Modi said at the opening of the high-level segment of COP14, which will close on September 13.

With many desertification-affected countries expecting India to share satellite-technology to track the implementation of land degradation control policies, Modi announced the setting up of a South-South Centre for Sustainable Land Restoration to share knowledge and training. “India would be happy to help other friendly countries develop land restoration strategies through cost-effective satellite and space technology,” he added.

The Prime Minister also repeated his promise of phasing out single use plastic starting October 2. “The menace of plastic waste has rendered large tracts of land unproductive and unfit for use. The way ahead is behaviour change,” he said.

Immediately after COP 14, the UN will host the Climate Action Summit which will call on world leaders to take urgent action on climate change. “Agreements we reach here will be crucial in protecting and managing land,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary, UNCCD. The convention, however, hasn’t mobilised the kind of funds needed to reverse desertification. “We need public and private funds. We are still far short of resources,” said Thiaw.

Of the 196 countries that are parties to the UNCCD, 122, including India, have agreed to become land degradation neutral by 2030, as specified in Goal 15.3 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Around 90 countries, including India, have specific targets on how much degraded land will be restored.

Environment minister and COP14 president Prakash Javadekar said the New Delhi draft declaration is almost ready and will feature commitments by ministers from parties to the UNCCD on what they will do to curb and reverse desertification. It will also capture significant issues such as drought-led migration, land tenure and gender equity. He did not, however, specify how much of the 26 million ha to be restored will be forest land and how much will be agricultural land.

India is on track to achieve its nationally determined contribution under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Modi said. “It would make you happy that India has been able to increase its tree cover. Between 2015 and 2017, India’s tree and forest cover has increased by 0.8 million hectares,” he said.

Sunita Narain, head of Centre for Science and Environment, said of the increased target: “It’s a very laudable goal. I believe the government will now put forward an action plan on the issue of restoring our natural resources and on the issue of livelihoods of very poor people.”

Modi also called upon the UNCCD to conceive a global water action agenda which will be central to the land degradation neutrality strategy. “When we address degraded lands, we also address water scarcity. Augmenting water supply, enhancing water recharge, slowing down water run-off and retaining moisture in the soil are all parts of a holistic land and water strategy”, he said.

India had announced a campaign for water conservation and water security, the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, in July. The campaign will run with citizen participation during the monsoon season, from July 1, 2019, to September 15, 2019. An additional Phase 2 of the project will be run from October 1, 2019, to November 30, 2019, for states receiving the North-East retreating monsoons. India also has a Jal Shakti ministry dealing solely with drinking water and other water related issues.

Jal Shakti ministry has also assured that every household will have access to drinking water by 2024.