India Co-Hosts Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop for the First Time
Emphasising the importance of land as a resource and the need to protect and harness its resources in a manner that does not adversely affect its health, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has underlined the critical need to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030. Inaugurating the four-day Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) here today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan urged the delegates to transform the Workshop into a milestone in combating land degradation, desertification and drought.
“In India, total land area under land degradation is 96.40 million hectares, which is 29.32% of the country’s total geographical area”, Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated. Pointing out that drylands lose 23 hectares per minute to drought and desertification, the Minister said that this gets translated into a loss of 20 million tonnes of potential foodgrain production. Underlining India’s strong commitment to the Convention, he pointed out that India has around 70% of its total geographical area under drylands and about 30% of its land affected by land degradation and about 25% of the land affected by desertification.
In the global context, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that nearly 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 27, 000 bio-species are lost every year. He stated that nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population lives in dry areas. “8 out of 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in drylands”, he added. Lauding some of the success stories of other nations, the Minister mentioned Sahel Integrated Lowland ecosystem Management (SILeM) in Burkina Faso, besides the Capacity and Management Support for combating land degradation in dryland ecosystems in China. In the Indian context, he highlighted the Sustainable land, water and biodiversity conservation and management for improved livelihoods in Uttarakhand watershed sector, as well as Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Security through Innovations in Land and ecosystem management in India. Dr. Harsh Vardhan added that India has documented its Sustainable Land and Ecosystem Management practices in the form of SLEM book, published in 2014.
The Minister referred to various schemes of the Government of India that have been launched for capacity-building of the stakeholders at multiple levels. Among others, he referred to some of the schemes which include - Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Soil Health Card Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PKSY), Per Drop More Crop, Swacch Bharat mission, Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP) and National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
Addressing the gathering, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCCD, Dr. P.K Monga said that the main objective of such Workshops is to enable country Parties to participate effectively in the UNCCD reporting process and to submit the national report in time. In his address, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Yuri Afanasiev stressed that land degradation is the single most crucial issue facing the world. “The good news, certainly for India, is that this problem is combatable and secondly, land degradation, together with issues like energy efficiency are the lowest cost, no-regret measures for the countries to adopt”, Mr. Afanasiev averred.
Earlier, Dr. Harsh Vardhan also released a report on the “Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought” at the inaugural session of the Workshop.
This Regional Workshop in India is the fourth in a series of UNCCD Workshops held around the world, with Turkey, Ethiopia and Brazil hosting the first two Workshops for their respective regions. This four-day Workshop (April 24-27, 2018) will participation of representatives from nearly 40 Asia-Pacific nations. The Workshop will also train delegates from 12 land degradation prone states in India. Scientists and academicians from premier scientific and research-based institutions of the country, along with senior officers of Central Government ministries that work closely with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to monitor the progress of the Convention in India, are also participating in the Workshop.
Desertification was addressed for the first time in 1977 in the United Nations Conference on Desertification. This was followed by the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on 17th June 1994. The Convention entered into force in December 1996. It is one of the three Rio Conventions, along with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). India became a signatory to the Convention on October 14, 1994 and ratified it on December 17, 1996. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is the nodal Ministry to co-ordinate all issues pertaining to the Convention. The Convention holds a biennial Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention and the last CoP was held in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, in China, in September 2016.
Additional Secretary, MoEF&CC, Mr. A.K Jain welcomed the delegates, while Joint Secretary, MoEF&CC, Mr. Jigmet Takpa delivered the vote of thanks.