A 12-day UN meet on combating desertification, land degradation and drought opened at Greater Noida on 2 September 2019 with India taking over presidency of the Conference of Parties (COP) from China for next two years while its neighbour Pakistan skipped it despite being invited by the global body.
Designated seats of two Pakistani representatives remained vacant during the plenary on inaugural day while Indian environment minister Prakash Javadekar was addressing the gathering of participants from over 195 countries.
- Pakistan, being member of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), was invited by the UN body. If their seats are vacant in the plenary, it means they might have decided to skip the meet. We cannot say much beyond this about their absence at this juncture, said an official.
- Representatives from participating countries will, during the next 11 days, discuss how to ramp up actions to make the world ‘land degradation neutral’ (LDN) by 2030 and restore about 2 billion hectares of degraded land, an area twice the size of China, globally.
- India, being the host country, is expected to substantially scale up its target of restoration of degraded land at a time when 29.3% of the country’s geographical area (328.7 million hectares) is affected by degradation due to increasing misuse of land resources and deforestation. According to an estimate, India alone is losing 100,000 hectares of land every year to degradation.
- India’s massive land restoration initiatives, which include creating 30 million hectares of ‘green path’ running from Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace at Porbandar in Gujarat to New Delhi, may be announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addresses the high-level segment of this 14th session of the Conference (COP14) on September 9.
- Through hosting COP14, India will highlight its leadership in navigating the land management agenda at global level. It will also provide a stage to mainstream sustainable land management in country’s national development policies.
- The conference is expected to agree on about 30 decisions needed to ensure that the convention’s goals are achieved by 2030.
- This is the last UNCCD COP before the ‘Decade of Ecological Restoration’ (2021-2030), declared by the UN general assembly, kicks in. So, the COP14 is providing a platform to discuss actions for the upcoming decade.
- Coming together at a world platform like this to share good stories and experiences will help the world. We can leapfrog for a good start in each country. Therefore, this UNCCD is very important and we expect some good outcomes which will be notified in the New Delhi Declaration, said Javadekar.
- Desertification and land degradation Atlas of India, brought out by the country’s space agency ISRO in 2016, indicates that Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Goa are among states/UT showing over 50% of their territory under desertification and land degradation.