Major initiatives have been launched and existing programmes strengthened, Bhupender Yadav said

India has made significant progress in its commitment to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav said on Tuesday.

Major initiatives have been launched and existing programmes strengthened in meeting India's Land Degradation Neutrality targets, he added.

Yadav was addressing the opening plenary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of Parties at its 15th session in Cote d'Ivoire.

The Minister further stated that India has enhanced monitoring the health of its soils through the Soil Health Card Programme implemented throughout the country, said the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

“Over 229 million Soil Health Cards have been issued to farmers between 2015 and 2019 and this program has led to a decline of 8-10% in the use of chemical fertilizers and also raised productivity by 5-6%,” Yadav pointed out.

Environment Minister Yadav said that following the global call for the submission of nominations for World Restoration Flagships, the Government of India endorsed six restoration flagships that target the restoration of 12.5 million hectares of degraded lands.

“I would like to point out that India’s rural livelihood programmes have an underlying ethos of natural resource conservation and restoration. In recovering from the pandemic, we have used our livelihood programmes extensively to work towards land restoration. Building forward better and greener communities, especially for vulnerable groups, will have to be at the heart of the restoration agenda”, stated the current COP president.

He also had a word of caution. Noting that despite the declining condition of land, the world continues to go on with consumerism driven lifestyles and still expect our lands to keep giving, Yadav said “It is imperative that we collectively move away from a consumption-oriented approach. The mindset of use and throw is deleterious for the planet”.

Speaking on the effect of Global warming on land, Environment Minister Yadav stated that protecting both people and the planet will not be possible without the developed countries taking the lead in drastic emissions reduction, as their responsibility for global warming is the highest both historically and in the present.

Highlighting the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian Environment Minister stated that it has compounded the challenge of fighting global warming as economic pressures have delayed or slowed climate action across the world, but at the same pointed out the finding of the IPCC Report of the Third Working Group, about the world exhausting its remaining carbon budget at a rapid pace, pushing us closer to the temperature limits of the Paris Agreement.

The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from May 9-20 will bring together leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society and other key stakeholders from around the world to drive progress in the future sustainable management of land and will explore links between land and other key sustainability issues.

These issues will be discussed during the high-level segment, including a Heads of States Summit, high-level roundtables and interactive dialogue sessions, as well as numerous other special and side events. ​

Drought, land restoration, and related enablers such as land rights, gender equality and youth empowerment are among the top items on the Conference agenda. Through its decisions adopted by UNCCD’s 197 Parties, COP15 is expected to galvanize sustainable solutions for land restoration and drought resilience, with a strong focus on future-proofing land use.