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India will achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, says Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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India is establishing a centre of excellence to develop a scientific approach to combat land degradation and is on track to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 to achieve land degradation neutrality, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

Addressing virtually a high-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought organised by the UN General Assembly in New York, Modi said, India which holds the current presidency of UN Convention of Combating Desertification (UNCCD), with this initiative, India would create a carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

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The Delhi Declaration, adopted at the 14th Conference of Parties to UNCCD in 2019, called for better access and stewardship of land and emphasised gender sensitive transformative projects. In India, Modi said, over the last 10 years, around 3 million hectares of forest cover has been added, enhancing the combined forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country’s total area.

‘Virtuous cycle’

Land is the fundamental building block for supporting all lives and livelihoods and the web of life functions as an interconnected system. Sadly, land degradation affects over two-thirds of the world today. If left unchecked it will erode the very foundations of our society, economies, food security, health, safety and quality of life, he said adding that there is a need to reduce the tremendous pressure on land and its resources.

Restoration of land, Modi said, can start a virtuous cycle of good soil health, increased land productivity, food security and improved livelihoods. It is mankind’s collective responsibility to reverse the damage to land caused by human activities, the Prime Minister said.

‘Planetary crisis’

“We are facing a triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and land is at the centre of all three,” said UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina J Mohammed at the meeting.

She laid out four priorities for the coming decade: Raising ambition on land restoration, including aiming to end illegal deforestation; investing in land-based solutions to sustain Covid-19 recovery efforts and tackle the climate crisis.

“Put simply, a land-centred approach to Covid-19 recovery can change the world,” said Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ibrahim Thiaw. “So far, the world’s largest economies have already spent $16 trillion in post-covid recovery efforts. Investing a fifth of that amount, collectively, per year, could shift the world’s economies to a sustainability trajectory. Within a decade, the global economy could create close to 400 million new green jobs, generating over $10 trillion in annual business value.”

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