Why in the news?
- Every year on June 17th, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) commemorated Desertification and Drought Day on this day.
- The Forest Stewardship Council’s Forest Stewardship Standard for India was released by the Union Minister (FSC FSSI).
- FSC is a globally recognised certification system that establishes audit requirements for enterprises involved with timber-related products.
What are the main highlights of the World Day Against Desertification and Drought?
- About: This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality is attainable via problem-solving, strong community involvement, and cooperation at all levels.
- This year’s theme is “Rising Together from Drought.”
- It underlines the importance of taking action as soon as possible to avert catastrophic effects for humans and the planet’s ecosystems.
- Desertification, along with climate change and biodiversity loss, were named as the most serious obstacles to sustainable development at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
- Two years later, on June 17, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management, and declared June 17 as “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.”
- Later, in 2007, the UN General Assembly named 2010-2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, with the UNCCD Secretariat once again leading the charge.
What exactly is desertification?
- Land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid environments. It is mostly caused by human activity and climatic variables.
- It makes no mention of the growth of existing deserts. Dryland ecosystems, which occupy more than one-third of the world’s land area, are especially vulnerable to overexploitation and unsuitable surface use.
- Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing, and poor irrigation practises can all reduce land production.
What exactly is a drought?
- Drought is commonly defined as a lack of rainfall/precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more, resulting in a water deficit with negative consequences for flora, animals, and/or people.
- Drought can also be induced by forest fires, which render the soil unfit for cultivation and create a water deficit in the soil.
- Droughts are becoming more common as a result of land degradation and climate change.
What is the Current Situation with Desertification and Droughts?
- Drought frequency and duration have increased by 29 percent since 2000, compared to the previous two decades (World Meteorological Organization 2021).
- Droughts affect 55 million people each year, and by 2050, three-fourths of the population will be affected.
- Water scarcity already affects 2.3 billion people. By 2040, an estimated one in every four children will be living in places with severe water scarcity (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). Drought affects every country (UN-Water 2021).
How Should It Be Handled?
- Accelerated reforestation and tree planting are required.
- Saving, reusing treated water, rainfall collecting, desalination, or direct use of seawater for salt-loving plants are all examples of water management.
- Buttressing the soil with sand barriers, windbreaks, and so on.
- Soil enrichment and hyper-fertilization are required.
- Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), which promotes native sprouting tree development by selectively trimming shrub branches. Pruning debris can be utilised to produce mulch for fields, enhancing soil water retention and decreasing evaporation.
What exactly is the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)?
- It is the only legally enforceable international agreement combining environment and development to sustainable land management, having been established in 1994.
- It focuses on the arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas known as the drylands, which are home to some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples.
- The 197 parties to the Convention collaborate to enhance the living conditions of people living in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil fertility, and to alleviate the effects of drought.
- It is especially committed to a bottom-up strategy, encouraging local people to participate in combating desertification and land degradation. The UNCCD secretariat promotes collaboration between developed and developing nations, notably in the transfer of knowledge and technology for sustainable land management.
- To handle these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the greatest possible use of natural resources, the dynamics of land, climate, and biodiversity are inextricably linked. The UNCCD works closely with the two other Rio Conventions:
- The Biological Diversity Convention (CBD)
- Climate Change Framework Convention of the United Nations (UNFCCC)
UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018-2030:
- It is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of enormous swaths of degraded land, enhance the livelihoods of over 1.3 billion people, and mitigate the effects of drought on vulnerable communities.
- Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 2030 states, “We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources, and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of present and future generations.”
What are the other Related Initiatives?
The Integrated Watershed Management Programme strives to restore ecological balance by harnessing, conserving, and developing degraded natural resources while also creating rural jobs.
- Desert Development Programme:
- established in 1995 to mitigate the negative effects of drought and revitalise the natural resource base of specified desert areas.
- The National Mission on Green India was established in 2014 with the goal of maintaining, restoring, and upgrading India’s declining forest cover over a 10-year period.
- The Bonn Challenge: The Bonn Challenge is a global endeavour to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and damaged land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
- India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to restore 21 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030 at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris.
- By 2030, the goal has been amended to repair 26 million hectares of damaged and deforested land.