The Centre is mulling an ambitious plan to create a 1,400km long and 5km wide green belt from Gujarat to the Delhi-Haryana border, on the lines of the “Great Green Wall” running through the width of Africa, from Dakar (Senegal) to Djibouti, to combat climate change and desertification. Though the idea is at a nascent stage, it has already generated a lot of excitement among officials in different ministries who believe that the project, if approved, may turn out to be a legacy programme in India’s efforts to deal with land degradation and the eastward march of the Thar desert.
- They believe the idea of forming a green belt from Porbandar to Panipat will not only help in restoring degraded land through afforestation along the Aravali hill range that spans across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, but also act as a barrier for dust coming from the deserts in western India and Pakistan.
- The idea of creating a huge green belt was part of the agenda of the recently held conference (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in India.
- Though the “Great Green Wall” of Africa, mooted almost a decade ago, is still far from reality due to the involvement of many countries in its implementation, India seeks replicate the idea as a national priority under its goal to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
- The green belt may not be contiguous, but would roughly cover the entire degraded Aravali range through a massive afforestation exercise. Once approved, its implementation will start with degraded forest land with more stretches coming in for restoration after taking farmers (and other private landholders) on board.
- The Aravali has been identified as one of the key degraded zones to be taken up for greening under India’s target to restore 26 million hectares (mha) of its land. India has, at present, 96.4 mha of degraded land which is 29.3% of the country’s total geographical area (328.7 mha).
- The desertification and land degradation atlas of India, brought out by the ISRO in 2016, revealed that Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi were among states/UT where more than 50% of the total area was degraded land and those under the threat of desertification.
- A legacy programme like converting such a huge tract of land as a green belt in high-intensive land-degraded states will be great boost towards meeting India’s target. Besides afforestation, water resource management and sustainable farm practices are other ways to restore degraded land.
- On Africa’s Great Green Wall, African countries had during the COP14 last month sought global support in terms of finance to make it a reality in the continent’s Sahel region by 2030.
- The project was launched by the African Union a decade ago with the support of many partners including UNCCD, World Bank and the European Commission. So far, work on nearly 15% of the wall is under way.
- Besides the African efforts to implement the project, the COP14 had also seen announcements of a similar initiative — called Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) — to develop forests in conflict areas between two countries, including the demilitarised zone of South and North Korea. The PFI got its inspiration from the Peace Park between Peru and Ecuador.