India Prime Minister Narendra Modi
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi/

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on the international community to set up a global water action agenda as the central theme toward  achieving land degradation neutrality.

Concise News reports that Modi made the call at the opening of the ministerial segment of the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification on Monday in New Delhi, India.

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According to him, augmenting water supply, enhancing water recharge, slowing down water run off and retaining moisture in the soil are all parts of a holistic land and water strategy

The Prime Minister said that India would restore an additional five million hectares of degraded land in the next 11 years, raising the land to be restored in India to 26 million hectares by 2030.

The Indian leader said that between 2015 and 2017, India’s tree and forest cover had been increased by 0.8 million hectares.

The restoration is part of India’s commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality, a flagship initiative under the UNCCD, he said.

According to NAN, to date, 122  of the 170 countries affected by land degradation, including Nigeria, have committed themselves  to achieve land degradation neutrality.

Modi said that any diversion of forest land for development purposes in India had to be compensated by making an equivalent land mass available for afforestation.

“It is also required that a monetary payment of the value of timber which such forest land would have yielded must be made.

“Only last week, funds amounting to nearly six billion US dollars were  released to the provincial governments in lieu of such diversion for development of forest lands,” Modi said.

He said that India had enforced zero liquid discharge in many industrial processes which provided for treatment of waste water to a degree that it could be put back into the river system without harming life in water.

Modi  also said that India would put an end to single-use plastics in the coming years by developing environment-friendly substitutes and an efficient-plastic collection and disposal method.

“I believe the time has come for even the world to say goodbye to single-use plastic,” the Indian Prime Minister said.

He described plastic waste as another form of land degradation which, if not prevented, could be impossible to reverse.

“This is the menace of plastic waste.

“Apart from having adverse health implications, this is going to render lands unproductive and unfit for agriculture,” Modi said.

He said that India was using remote sensing and space technology for multiple applications including land restoration.

The Prime Minister  expressed India’s readiness to help other friendly countries develop land restoration strategies, through cost effective satellite and space technology.

Also speaking, the Prime Minister of Saint-Vincent The Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, said that collective responses of nations globally had not measured up adequately or sufficiently to the enormous task at hand, so as to obviate disaster.

He said that the country would use its upcoming membership of the United Nations Security Council in 2020 to address the consequences of land degradation.

Over 8,000 delegates, including UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms Amina Muhhammed, UNCCD Executive Secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw, ministers and heads of UN agencies were attending the Conference, whose theme is “Investing in Restoration to Unlock Opportunities.”

COP14, which ends Friday, is expected to adopt over 30 decisions and a few country-led initiatives on the actions governments will take to reverse land degradation especially over the next two years, and also beyond.