Photo credit: UNCCD - Photo: 2019

India Calls for A Global Water Action Agenda to Restore Degraded Land

By Devinder Kumar

NEW DELHI (IDN) – As COP14, the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) entered the second week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the ministerial segment calling on the international community to set up a global water action agenda as the central theme to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN).

He 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 restoration is part of India’s commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality, a flagship initiative under the UNCCD. To date, 122 of the 170 countries affected by land degradation have committed to achieve land degradation neutrality.

India was one of the first countries to commit to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of achieving land degradation neutrality, and the country’s Initiative complements and strengthens two other previous initiatives, namely, the Changwon Initiative of the Republic of Korea at COP10 in October 2011 and the Ankara Initiative of Turkey at COP12 in October 2015.

The main components of the Changwon Initiative include enhancing the scientific process of the UNCCD, mobilizing additional resources and facilitating partnership arrangements, and supporting a global framework for the promotion of best practices.

The objectives of the Ankara Initiative were to strengthen implementation of the UNCCD, support implementation of COP decisions, support implementation of Goals for Sustainable Development (15.3), and achieve land degradation neutrality.

Land Degradation Neutrality has been defined by the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification as a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.

LDN represents a paradigm shift in land management policies and practices. It is a unique approach that counterbalances the expected loss of productive land with the recovery of degraded areas. It strategically places the measures to conserve, sustainably manage and restore land in the context of land use planning.

Amina MohammedUN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed pointed out that one-third of the timeframe for achieving the SDSGs and delivery on the entire 2030 Agenda, has already passed, and the countries need to act with increased urgency and ambition to get rid of silos that stand in the way of multiple benefits that can be achieved through coordinated action on land, climate and biodiversity.

She 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 percent 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 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.

“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,” she added.

Referring to the Climate Action Summit on September 23 at the UN Headquarters in New York, she said that it is not the first and last stop. “It is the first step towards concrete actions, and we are asking commitments from our member states. I will say considerable engagement with financial sector is really important, since there is a barrier, if we don’t have resources. “So, we are saying public funds, must move. We are not correct in saying the Green Climate Fund doesn’t have money on the table, they do, and the states do make contributions that is a good signal towards the climate action summit in the next two weeks. It is continuous engagement, that is what it is about,” she added.

Ibrahim ThiawUNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw 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 COP14 in laying “the groundwork for change” for the forthcoming five United Nations Summits to be held in New York, 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 UN Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed on 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 privatizing land.

Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint-Vincent 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, COP 14 convened under the aegis of 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.”

Prakash JavaddekarPrakash Javadekar, India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the current COP14 President, said that, “combating desertification have to be a national goal. In India, we are already on the way of combating desertification, the green covering is rising in India. From 24% in the last 5 years, it has increased by nearly 15,000 square km and we are inching towards our target of having 33% of green cover”.

He added: “If human actions have done damage to the world and the environment, now positive human actions will make a difference and will give a better earth for future generations.”

The Indian Environment Minister announced that the Delhi Declaration will be adopted from the ministerial segment of the Conference, which started on September 2.

The segment is meant to draw attention to the human face of desertification, land degradation and drought, he said, and ensured the delegates: “India has the COP presidency for the next 2 years. We will work with all of you and I can ensure that our positive actions will help us give a better earth to the future generations.”

Over 8,000 delegates, including ministers, heads of United Nations and intergovernmental bodies, youth, local governments, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations are attending the Conference, whose theme is “Investing in Restoration to Unlock Opportunities.”

COP14, which ends on September 13, 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, and also beyond. [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 September 2019]

Photo credit: UNCCD

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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