GS PAPER III

Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India

Why in News

Ministry of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change called for generating awareness towards preventing and restoring land degradation for healthier and sustainable ecosystems.

Key Points

  • The Desertification and Drought Day was commemorated by the Ministry, with an aim to generate large scale awareness towards understanding the key role of land in all environmental and economic concerns, that world, as well as India is facing now-a days.
  • On the occasion, the Ministry of State released the latest version of “Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India”. It has been published by Space Application Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad.
  • The Atlas provides state wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19. It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years, from 2003-05 to 2018-19.
  • The salient findings of Atlas are not only useful as a ready reference, but will also be helpful in strengthening the envisaged National Action Plan for achieving land restoration targets by providing important baseline and temporal data and technical inputs.
  • The event also observed release of Coffee Table Book “India Hosting UNCCD-COP 14” and a short film on UNCCD-COP 14. The commemoration of this event encourages individuals and groups to take initiatives that can keep the land healthy and productive.
  • India hosted the 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP 14) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019. India is striving towards achieving the national commitments of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and restoration of 26 million ha of degraded land by 2030 which focus on sustainable and optimum utilisation of land resources.
  • India has been at the forefront of bringing the issue of land degradation to the core of relevant international alliances for protection and conservation of environment.
  • The government of India has adopted collective approach for making progress towards achieving the national commitments related to land restoration.

Desertification and Drought Day

  • The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is a United Nations observance celebrated each year on 17 June.
  • Its purpose is to raise awareness of the presence of desertification and drought, highlighting methods of preventing desertification and recovering from drought.
  • Each year’s global celebration has a unique, novel emphasis that had not been developed previously.

Desertification and Drought Day 2021

  • The 2021 Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June will focus on turning degraded land into healthy land.
  • Restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes and increases food security. It helps biodiversity to recover. It locks away the atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change.
  • It can also lessen the impacts of climate change and underpin a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will work with the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) of Costa Rica, the host of the global observance, to encourage households, communities, private sector and countries to have a better relationship with nature as we recover from COVID-19.
  • This year’s theme for the United Nations’ world day for fighting desertification and drought is “Restoration. Land. Recovery.”

Desertification

  • According to the United Nations, desertification is an expansion of existing deserts. It refers to the overall declining productivity of land due to overexploitation and inappropriate land use by human activity.
  • According to the UN, poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing, and bad irrigation practices can all lead to desertification and drought.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.
  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted in 1994, is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • Parties to the Convention meet in Conferences of the Parties (COPs) every two years, as well as in technical meetings throughout the year, to advance the aims and ambitions of the Convention and achieve progress in its implementation.
  • To help publicise the Convention, 2006 was declared “International Year of Deserts and Desertification” but debates have ensued regarding how effective the International Year was in practice.

Aravalli forest land

Why in News

The Supreme Court recently refused to halt the demolition of about 10,000 unauthorised residential constructions encroaching into the ecologically fragile Aravali forest land near Lakarpur Khori village in Haryana.

Key Points

  • A Bench of Justice had refused to give encroachers any quarter on June 7 while ordering the demolition. The court had categorically said that “land­grabbers cannot take the refuge of the rule of law” and demand fairness.
  • However, fresh petitions were filed urging the court to revisit its order and provide for rehabilitation of the residents, including children.
  • The petitioners, mostly residents whose properties face the axe, said they were not given time to submit documents to the local authorities to prove their claim. But the court refused to budge.

Onus on State

  • The court said the onus was on the State to rehabilitate the residents in compliance with a 2003 scheme. The demolition would continue.

Background

  • In August 2020, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Haryana authorities to stop road construction in the ecologically sensitive zone of Aravalli hills.
  • The order came after a media report exposed the illegal flattening of Aravalli hills to build a road to farmhouses in Bandhwari near Gurgaon-Faridabad Road in Haryana.
  • Previously, there have been court orders against illegal mining which has been rampant in this region.
  • Many have pointed out that disturbing the ecological balance in an already emaciated landscape around Aravalli will further vitiate the air quality and deplete the water table in the surrounding areas of Haryana, threatening the lives of millions living there.
  • Mongabay-India too had earlier reported the violation of several environmental norms in this sensitive forested zone.

About Aravalli

  • Aravalli is almost 700 kilometres-long mountain range that starts from India’s western state of Gujarat, travels through Rajasthan and Haryana before terminating at Raisina hill, at the heart of national capital Delhi.
  • Most of the Aravalli hills is in Rajasthan, yet some part of it also falls in some of Haryana’s districts such as Gurugram, Mewat, Faridabad, Palwal, Rewari, Bhiwani and Mahendragarh.
  • The range has several peaks, hillocks and ridges, with different elevations, having a highest of 1,732 metres above mean sea level at Guru Shikhar peak, Mount Abu. It is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world and full of minerals, flora and fauna.
  • Many water streams originate from Aravalli and it stands as a barrier against the Thar desert to protect parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi from dust, pollution and sand storms.

Impact of illegal mining on Aravalli Mountain

  • Mining, deforestation and encroachment have wreaked havoc with it. Though the Rajasthan government has allowed mining in Aravalli under “legal safeguards”, it is completely banned in Haryana by court orders.
  • Yet, cases of mining and other environmental violations are reported at regular intervals.