India loses 23 ha of dryland to drought, desertification per min:Vardhan

Drought and desertification lead to a loss of 23 hectares of dryland per minute in India, resulting further in a loss of 20 million tonnes of potential foodgrain production, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said today.

He said India has nearly 70 per cent of its geographical area under drylands, and about 30 per cent of land is affected by degradation and 25 per cent is affected by desertification.

Due to desertification, fertile land becomes desert, typically because of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.

Inaugurating a four-day Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Vardhan underlined the need to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030.

Under LDN, the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.

"In India, the total land area under land degradation is 96.40 million hectares, which is 29.32 per cent of the country's total geographical area.

"Drylands lose 23 hectares per minute to drought and desertification. This gets translated into a loss of 20 million tonnes of potential foodgrain production," he said.

In the global context, he said nearly 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 27,000 bio-species are lost every year, while nearly 30 per cent of the world's population lives in dry areas, he said, asserting, "eight out of 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in drylands".

Lauding the success stories from other nations, he mentioned Sahel Integrated Lowland ecosystem Management in Burkina Faso, and the capacity and management support for combating land degradation in dryland ecosystems in China.

In the Indian context, he highlighted the sustainable land, water and biodiversity conservation and management for improved livelihoods in Uttarakhand. He also referred to government schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the National Food Security Mission, the Soil Health Card Scheme.

Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCCD, P K Monga said the main objective of such workshops is to enable countries to participate effectively in the UNCCD reporting process.

UN Resident Coordinator Yuri Afanasiev stressed land degradation is the "single most" crucial issue facing the world.

"The good news, certainly for India, is that this problem is combatable and secondly, land degradation, together with issues like energy efficiency are the lowest cost, no-regret measures for the countries to adopt," Afanasiev said.

The four-day workshop will witness the participation of representatives from nearly 40 Asia-Pacific nations and also train delegates from 12 land degradation-prone states in India.

Desertification was addressed for the first time in 1977 in the United Nations Conference on Desertification. This was followed by the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on 17th June 1994.

The Convention entered into force in December 1996.

India became a signatory to the Convention on October 14, 1994 and ratified it on December 17, 1996.