Land Degradation Current Affairs - 2020

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December 5: World Soil Day

The World Soil Day was endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2013. It was officially adopted through a resolution at the 68th UN General Assembly. Since then every year, the World Soil Day is marked on December 5 by the United Nations all over the world.

Theme: Stop Soil Erosion, Save our Future

SDG

The day is marked focusing on the Sustainable Development Goal 15 which is “Life on Land”. The goal aims at protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, combat desertification, manage forests, reverse land degradation.

Issues

According to the United Nations, Desertification, Land Degradation are the two major issues of soil loss. According to UNCCD, desertification is defined as degradation of dry land eco systems by human activities due to overgrazing, unsustainable farming, clear cutting of land, mining and climate change.

International Union of Soil Sciences

The concept of World Soil Day was first introduced by the IUSS in 2002 to celebrate the importance of soil. The IUSS was founded in 1924. There are more than 86 national and regional members. It acts as a hub of soil scientists and a platform to promote all branches of soil science and its applications.

Significance

The World Soil Day highlights on the problems of population expansion. It aims at reducing soil erosion and maintain soil fertility. The theme of 2019 focuses on challenges in soil management. It encourages organizations, communities and governments to work towards improving soil health

Why was December 5 chosen?

The late king of Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the main proponent of the initiative. Therefore, his birthday December 5 was chosen as World Soil Day.

Soil Conservation

The day also stresses on the importance of Soil Conservation. The FAO recommends Terrace farming, Contour ploughing, windbreaks, crop rotation, Agrostological measures, green manures, no-till farming, earthworms to conserve soil and prevent soil erosion.

PM raises India’s target to restore degraded land to 26 million hectares by 2030

Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised India’s target for restoring degraded land from its earlier target of 21 million hectares (MH) to 26 million hectares (MH) by 2030. The announcement was made by PM Modi while speaking at the high level segment at 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP) to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

UNCCD COP-14 is being hosted by India this time and as many as 196 countries, 70 environment ministers and over 8,000 delegates from across globe are participating in 12-day conference from September 2 to September 13 being held at Greater Noida. Agenda of UN conference is to reverse degradation of land and fix critical gaps in its management.

Key Highlights

At the conference the participant nations are brainstorming on ways to tackle land desertification with over 120 countries setting land degradation neutrality target for 2030. The outcome of the conference i.e. ‘New Delhi Declaration’, which will lay down measures to combat desertification, will be released.

PM Modi reiterated India’s resolve to tackle the problem of plastic waste and stressed upon initiatives for greater South-South Cooperation in addressing issues of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.

He also called upon leadership of UNCCD to conceive global water action agenda which is central to Land Degradation Neutrality strategy, which has been defined by parties to UNCCD as ‘a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems’.

India will also setup a global technical support institute for UNCCD member countries for their capacity building and support regarding Land Degradation Neutrality.

India uses remote sensing and space technology for multiple applications such as land restoration, therefore, PM announced that India could help friendly countries develop land restoration strategies through cost effective satellite technology.

Why addressing land degradation important? When we address degraded lands, we also address water scarcity, thereby augmenting water supply, enhancing water recharge, slowing down water run-off and retaining moisture in soil are all parts of a holistic land and water strategy. Thus, restoring health of land is critical for sustainable development.

Land desertification is the biggest environment challenge which the world is facing as latest data shows that one third (33%) of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are emitted from land degradation. Climate change along with human activities have facilitated land degradation which poses threat to humanity and potentially dire consequences and nearly 50% of people on earth are affected by impact of climate change and natural calamities.

Significance

Since 30% of India’s total land area has been hit by land degradation, therefore the country has high stakes in land restoration. If this target of restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 is realised, it would be one of the biggest environmental achievements for the country.

Some steps taken in the direction

  • In between 2015-2017, tree cover and forest cover of country increased by 0.8 million hectares.
  • Centre government has created Jal Shakti Ministry to recognise value of water in all forms.
  • Zero liquid discharge policy has been imposed on many industries.