Land Degradation Neutrality

The three important components of land are soil, water and biodiversity. These three components working together create goods and services which provide a foundation for sustainable livelihoods and peaceful co-existence between peoples.

What is Land Degradation?

Land Degradation refers to reduction or loss in the quality of land especially its topsoil, vegetation, and/or water resources, due to excessive or inappropriate exploitation.

The main reasons for land degradation are deforestation, Excessive Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides, Overgrazing, Salination, Water-logging, Desertification, mining and climate change.

Process of Land Degradation

The Process of Land Degradation is outlined below:

  • Degradation of vegetative cover;
  • Water erosion;
  • Wind erosion;
  • Salinization;
  • Reduction in soil organic matter; and
  • Excess of toxic substances.

What is Land Degradation Neutrality?

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification defines Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) 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.”

Why achieving Land Degradation Neutrality is Vital?

The land is fixed in quantity and there is ever-increasing competition to control land resources and capitalize on the flows of goods and services from the land. This has the potential to result in social and political instability, fueling poverty, conflict and migration.

India’s population is projected to reach 1.7 billion by 2050. About 2 billion hectares of land – an area over three times the size of India – are degraded, but can be restored back to health.

Out of 328-million-hectare land of India, around 147 million hectares is undergoing some form of degradation. As per the estimates by TERI, India is suffering an economic loss of 2.5 per cent of GDP due to land degradation.

Further, it is said that the cost India would incur in reclaiming land is far less than cost India would entail on account of land degradation.

Hence achieving LDN is vital and it requires multi-stakeholder engagement and planning across scales and sectors, supported by national-scale coordination that utilizes existing local and regional governance structures.

Sustainable Development Goals and LDN

Land degradation neutrality is one of 169 targets set under the Sustainable Development Goals. India was one of the first countries to commit to the 2030 SDG target of achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN).

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement which promotes good land stewardship.

The convention through a bottom-up approach helps people, communities and countries to create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food and water and energy, by ensuring land users have an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the parties to Convention strive to build robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively.

Entered into force in December 1996, UNCCD is one of three Rio Conventions along with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). UNCCD is the only legally binding international agreement to address the problem of land degradation, desertification and other land issues.

Objectives of UNCCD

  • To combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought or desertification.
  • To involve long-term integrated strategies in affected areas, for improving the productivity of land, and rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources, leading to improved living conditions, in particular at the community level.

India is taking over the presidency of the Conference of Parties from China and will serve for 2 years. India will lead the initiatives to raise political momentum for the negotiations and boost the engagement of stakeholders in the Convention’s implementation.  Ministers from over 70 countries participating in the high-level segment of the Conference will address new and emerging issues.

India’s target of achieving LDN by 2030 is seen as highly ambitious. About 50 lakh hectare of land has to be restored by India. This ambitious target of India shows our commitment towards environmental protection.

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