Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said three million hectares of forest cover has been added in India over the last ten years. He said this has enhanced the combined forest cover to almost one fourth of the country’s total area. The Prime Minister was virtually addressing a UN ‘High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation & Drought’. He stated that India is on track to achieve national commitment of land degradation neutrality. The Prime Minister spoke at the Opening Segment in his capacity as the President of the 14th Session of the Conference of Parties of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
He listed steps taken by India to deal with the land degradation issue. He said that India has taken the lead to highlight land degradation issues at international forums. The Prime Minister conveyed that India is on track to achieve its national commitment of Land degradation neutrality. He said India is also working towards restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. This will contribute to India’s commitment to achieve an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Mr Modi said India has always given importance to land and considers the sacred Earth as mother. He gave an example of the Banni region in Rann of Kutch in Gujarat to illustrate how restoration of land can start a virtuous cycle of good soil health, increased land productivity, food security and improved livelihoods. In the Banni region, land restoration was done by developing grasslands, which helped in achieving land degradation neutrality. It also supports pastoral activities and livelihood by promoting animal husbandry. The Prime Minister stressed the need to devise effective strategies for land restoration while promoting indigenous techniques.
He said land is the fundamental building block for supporting all lives and livelihood. He pointed out that land degradation affects over two thirds of the world today. He cautioned that if left unchecked, it will erode the very foundations of societies, economies, food security, health, safety and quality of life.
In the spirit of South-South cooperation, India is assisting fellow developing countries to develop land restoration strategies. A Centre of Excellence is being set up in India to promote a scientific approach towards land degradation issues. Mr Modi said it is mankind’s collective responsibility to reverse the damage to land caused by human activity.