Delhi Declaration aims to restore degraded lands

Union Minister of Environment Prakash Javdekar and President COP14 addressing a press conference following the COP's 14th session./Twitter

More than 120 countries, including India, on Friday agreed to change their domestic laws in such a way to lure businessmen to invest in restoring degraded non-forest land, which otherwise does not get any attention from the private sector.

This is one of the highlights of the Delhi Declaration adopted at the end of the 10 day UN Convention to Combat Desertification held at Greater Noida near Delhi.

“Delhi declaration makes a business case for land restoration. It urges respective governments to regulate the land degradation in such a way so that the community is not deprived and the business sector gets an incentive for land restoration,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD executive secretary, at a press conference on the final day of the summit.

Another significant outcome of the meet is awakening of the nations to the reality of drought, whose severity and frequency would increase as a consequence of climate change.

“There is a clear link between climate change, land degradation and biodiversity,” Thiaw said, linking the three UN green treaties.

The UNCCD is one of three global treaties that came out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the other two being the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). India signed the UNCCD in 1994 and ratified it in 1996. The treaty comes into force in December 1996.

“The decisions on land rights and drought took more time,” the UNCCD executive secretary said, admitting that there were challenges to bring every country on-board on such issues.

“One should remember that unlike climate (governed by UNFCCC), which is a global issue, land degradation is a local issue that requires local action,” reminded Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who will have the UNFCCC presidency for the next two years.

Thiaw said out of the 170 countries affected by land degradation, 122 have set land restoration targets in the past three years. Fifty-three out of 54 African countries have the targets. India too have enhanced its target from restoring 21 million ha of land to 26 million ha by 2030.

“The Delhi Declaration encourages local governments to adopt integrated land use management and enhanced land governance to rehabilitate the natural resource base that makes cities sustainable, taking into consideration the new urban agenda, including by reducing rates of land consumption and soil sealing along with biodiversity and ecosystem loss,” reads the outcome document.

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