Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Re-vitalising the soil

The 14th Conference of the Parties (CoP 14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), is now into the third day of its two-week session, and is being held outside the smog-filled Indian capital of New Delhi. In all,  delegates include 90 ministers and more than 7,000 participants drawn from among government officials, civil society and the scientific community from the 197 parties will thrash out 30  decision texts and draw up action plans to strengthen land-use policies and address emerging threats such as droughts, forest fires, dust storms and forced migration.

The question before CoP14 is how participating countries can slow down loss of land and along with it biodiversity threatening to impact 3.2 billion people across the world. “Three out of every four hectares have been altered from their natural states and the productivity of one every four hectares of land has been declining,” according to UNCCD.

Nearly 30 percent of India’s 328 million hectares, supporting 1.3 billion people, has become degraded through deforestation, over-cultivation, soil-erosion and wetland depletion, according to a satellite survey conducted in 2016 by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
A study, conducted last year by The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), an independent think-tank based in New Delhi, estimates India’s losses from land degradation and change in land use to be worth 47 billion dollars in 2014—2015.
“Retaining carbon in the soil is of particular value to India and its neighbouring countries, which presently have the world’s greatest rainwater runoffs into the sea,” says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), a New Delhi based NGO, working on the water and environment sectors. “What South Asian countries need to do urgently is to improve the rainwater harvesting so as to recharge groundwater aquifers and local water bodies in a given catchment so that water is available in the post-monsoon period that increasingly see severe droughts,” Thakkar tells IPS. 
A study published in May said half of the area around 16 of India’s 24 major river basins is facing  droughts due to lowered soil moisture levels while at least a third of its 18 river basins has become non-resilient to vegetation droughts.

No comments: