India working towards restoring 2.6 crore hectares of degraded land by 2030: PM



New Delhi: India is working towards restoring 2.6 crore hectares of degraded land by 2030 and is assisting fellow developing countries to develop land-restoration strategies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a high-level UN dialogue on Monday.
Asserting that land degradation affects over two-thirds of the world today, Modi said if left unchecked, it will erode the very foundations of our societies, economies, food security, health, safety and quality of life.
“Therefore, we have to reduce the tremendous pressure on land and its resources. Clearly, a lot of work lies ahead of us. But we can do it. We can do it together,” he said.
The prime minister made these remarks in his virtual address at the UN “High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought” at the United Nations.
Land is the fundamental building block for supporting all lives and livelihoods, he said, adding that “all of us understand that the web of life functions as an inter-connected system”.
Modi said in India, “we have always given importance to land and considered the sacred Earth as our mother”.
He said India has taken the lead to highlight land degradation issues at international forums and cited that the “Delhi Declaration” of 2019 called for better access and stewardship over land and emphasized gender-sensitive transformative projects.
“In India, over the last 10 years, around three million (30 lakh) hectares of forest cover has been added. This has enhanced the combined forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country’s total area,” the prime minister said. “We are on track to achieve our national commitment of land degradation neutrality. We are also working towards restoring 26 million (2.6 crore) hectares of degraded land by 2030,” the prime minister said.
This would contribute to India’s commitment to achieve an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion (250 to 300 crore) tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, he added.
“We believe that restoration of land can start a virtuous cycle for good soil health, increased land productivity, food security and improved livelihoods,” the prime minister said.
Pointing out that in many parts of India, novel approaches have been taken up, the prime minister cited the example of Banni region in Rann of Kutch in Gujarat which suffers from highly degraded land and receives very little rainfall.
“In that region, land restoration is done by developing grasslands, which helps in achieving land degradation neutrality. It also supports pastoral activities and livelihood by promoting animal husbandry,” he said.
“In the same spirit, we need to devise effective strategies for land restoration while promoting indigenous techniques,” Modi said.
Noting that land degradation poses a special challenge to the developing world, Modi also told the meet that 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 the country to promote a scientific approach towards land degradation issues, he said.
“It is mankind’s collective responsibility to reverse the damage to land caused by human activity. It is our sacred duty to leave a healthy planet for our future generations,” Modi said.