The Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has pledged that India will rejuvenate 50 lakh hectares (5mn hectares) of degraded land between 2021 and 2030.
- The announcement comes ahead of the Conference of Parties (CoP-14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be hosted by India in September.
- This is for the first time that India is hosting CoP of UNCCD.
- Experts from 90 countries will attend the conference and explore ways to combat desertification of the planet.
- India is facing a severe crisis of land degradation.
- 96.4 million hectares or 29% of the land in the country is considered to be degraded. That is these lands or soils are unfit for cultivation.
- In January 2019, India joined the Bonn Challenge where it pledged to rejuvenate 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020 and an additional 8 hectares by 2030.
- Bonn Challenge seeks restoration of degraded and deforested land across the globe – 150 million hectares by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- The challenge is voluntary in nature.
- India’s pledge is the largest in Asia.
How The Change Is Brought About?
- As per the Environment Ministry, schemes like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Soil Health Card Scheme and Soil Management Scheme act as an impetus to land or soil restoration.
- The government will undertake forest restoration as well as cultivable land restoration as part of the challenge.
- As per UNCCD, land degradation means reduction or loss of biological activity of the land or economic productivity of the land that is resulting due to land use or any other human activities or processes or a combination of processes.
- In India, land degradation is happening at a faster pace leading to loss of biodiversity, low agricultural productivity, affecting water quality, threatening sustainable development, and overall well-being of both humans and animals.
- Soil erosion is the major reason for degradation in the country.
- This can exacerbate the effects of climate change by manifold.
- As a signatory to the UNCCD, India is bound to achieve degradation neutral status by 2030. That is, an increase in land degradation would be offset by the gains in land reclamation
In this scenario, the announcement by the Ministry is timely and efforts are on to achieve the targets by 2030.