From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Land Degradation
Mains level : Land Degradation - Importance for India
Prime Minister announced that India will scale up its ambition to restore degraded land at the ongoing 14th CoP of the United Nation’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- The step is significant for India’s global environmental commitments.
- This move will now restore 26 million hectares by 2030. That is 5 million hectares more than what is pledged at the Paris Climate Change Meet.
- This also acknowledges the growing crisis of desertification. According to ISRO’s Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas, nearly 30% of land in the country is degraded.
- The plan is to reverse degradation by adopting a landscape-restoration approach.
- This needs a shift from plantation-oriented afforestation schemes to recognising the importance of ecosystem services of land and forests such as watershed management, biodiversity conservation and improving soil health.
Increasing forest cover
- Over the past two decades, the Forest Survey of India has reported a consistent increase in the country’s forested area.
- But the question of how forests have not been impacted by pressure on land is not answered.
- The answer lies in a methodological problem with the FSI’s audits: it uses satellite images to identify green cover as forest and does not discriminate between natural forests and plantations.
- Several studies show the limitations of monoculture plantations in sequestering GHG emissions. A study published in the journal Science in 2016 found that the capacity of the green areas in Europe to absorb CO2 has come down significantly despite recording an increase in such areas over the past 250 years.
Land degradation and climate change
- An IPCC report last month has shown the links between global warming and land degradation.
- Climate change not only exacerbates land degradation processes but it becomes a dominant pressure that introduces degradation pathways in ecosystems.
India’s environment establishment now needs to re-evaluate the methods to measure the country’s green cover.
Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry area of land becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife.