New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday called on the international community to set up a global water action agenda as the central theme to achieve land degradation neutrality.
He also announced that India will restore an additional 5 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, raising the land to be restored in India to 26 million hectares. The Prime Minister made the comments when he opened the ministerial segment of the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that opened in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh a week ago.The restoration is part of India's commitment to achieving land degradation neutrality, a flagship initiative under the UNCCD.
To date, 122 of the 170 countries affected by land degradation have committed to achieving land degradation neutrality.Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is also the current COP14 President, also announced that the Delhi Declaration will be adopted from the special ministerial segment of the conference.He said that the segment is meant to draw attention to the human face of desertification, land degradation and drought and ensured the stakeholders that "India has the COP presidency for the next two years. We will work with all of you and I can ensure that our positive actions will help us give better earth to the future generations". Javadekar said that combating desertification has to be a national goal.
"In India, we are already on the way of combating desertification, and the green cover is rising in India. From 24 per cent in the last five years, it has increased by nearly 15,000 square kilometres and we are inching towards our target of having 33 per cent of green cover," the minister said.
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said, "The collective responses of nations globally have not measured up adequately or sufficiently to the enormous task at hand, so as to obviate disaster. Accordingly, COP14 convened under the aegis of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is a seminal staging post in humanity's quest for a better and sustainable condition of our lives, living and production." Echoing similar sentiments, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, highlighted that 800 million people are still going hungry and that crop yields are dropping, and demand for food is set to increase by 50 per cent in the coming decades.
"Restoring 150 million hectares of farmland could feed 200 million more people every year. At the same time, it would provide greater resilience and over 30 billion a year in increased income for small stakeholders and sink an additional 2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year," she said. "It is in these critical times where our individual and collective responsibilities will be needed, even more than they ever have been. It is a massive effort but together we can lift and achieve the aspirations of the climate agenda," Mohammed added.
Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, highlighted the present and inter-generational impacts of land degradation globally and underlined the plight of the children being born "whose future is not in the hands of the parents alone, but of humanity at large."He drew attention to recent scientific assessments that revealed the harm caused by land degradation, stressed importance of the current COP in laying "the groundwork for change" for the five United Nations' summits to be held in New York soon, and said "combining our land with three little concepts of equality, partnerships and scale could take us a very long way towards our common goals.
"Thiaw also concurred with Mohammed regarding the role of the private sector in ramping up land restoration particularly for vulnerable, rural and smallholder farmers, and clarified that the engagement with the private sector is not the same as privatising land. Over 8,000 delegates, including ministers, heads of United Nations and intergovernmental bodies, youth, local governments, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations are attending the conference, whose theme is "Investing in Restoration to Unlock Opportunities." The global summit, which ends on Friday, is expected to adopt over 30 decisions and a few country-led initiatives on the actions governments will take to reverse land degradation, especially over the next two years.