Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan today said that combating desertification and land degradation was one of the thrust areas identified by his ministry. On the eve of 'World day to combat desertification', the minister said that a new nationwide action plan will be finalised after holding consultations with stakeholders, keeping in mind national circumstances and development priorities. He said the nation was committed to achieve land degradation neutrality by the year 2030. Land degradation neutrality is a state where the amount of healthy and productive land resources, necessary to support ecosystem services, remain stable or increase. On the other hand, desertification is the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture. "India's new National Action Programme (NAP) will be finalised after a series of regional consultations and workshops with all relevant stakeholders, keeping in mind our national circumstances and development priorities," he said. He said that India was focusing on sustainable land and resource management for livelihood generation at community level to make them 'healthier and productive'. Referring to this year's theme - 'Our Land Our Home Our Future', the minister said that it underlined the role a productive land can play in turning the growing tide of migrants abandoning their unproductive land into communities. "The government is also taking a holistic approach towards improving the living standard of its citizens, with Swachchh Bharat Mission, with a dedicated corpus of funds to address concerns over waste disposal, sewage treatment, sanitation--factors which adversely affect the quality of land," he said. Vardhan said that this year, 'Swarn Jayanti Nature Camp' situated in Bhondsi village of Gurugram has been chosen for the landmark celebration. "A large variety of youth-centric outreach and awareness enhancing activities will emphasise on countering the challenges posed by desertification, land degradation and drought will be showcased at the event," he said. He maintained that ISRO, Ahmedabad, along with 19 concerned partner institutes has carried out an inventory and monitoring of desertification of the entire country using Indian Remote Sensing Satellites data in Geographical Information System (GIS) environment. He noted maps and salient findings compiled in the form of an atlas were released last year. "Combating desertification and land degradation is one of the thrust areas identified by this ministry," he said. The minister also said that initiatives like the 'Soil Health Card Scheme' have been launched by the Centre to help farmers improve productivity through judicious use of inputs. The scheme was allotted Rs 840.52 crore over the last three years which is 30 times more than the funds devoted to soil research and analysis in the preceding years. Vardhan said that various schemes have been drawn up to showcase India's efforts to mitigate concerns over desertification, land degradation and drought problems. Government schemes like 'Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana' have witnessed a surge in allotment of funds, with Rs 4,750 crore being released in 2016-17, as compared to Rs 3,707 crore in 2015-16, he said. "With the rallying call for 'More Crop Per Drop' the government has further strengthened the 'Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana' by increasing budget allocation for the years 2014-17 by approximately 22 per cent at Rs 4510.55 crore, as compared to Rs 3699.45 crore in the previous three years," Vardhan said. He also referred to the allocations under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana has been increased from Rs 3000 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 4500 crore in 2017-18, at an increase of 33 per cent.
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