World Day to Combat

World Day to Combat

On 17th June, the world commemorates Desertification and Drought Day. As the name implies, the day is dedicated to the rehabilitation of damaged land as well as the creation of and raising awareness about soil desertification prevention. People all across the world have been encouraged to participate in virtual activities, webinars, and presentations hosted by specialists on the topic to commemorate the day. The day also attempts to develop practical solutions to combat desertification which can be implemented by the majority of countries and individuals worldwide.


History of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought has been commemorated on 17th June since the year of 1995. As in, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 17th as the “World Day to Combat Desertification” in the year of 1994 to increase community awareness regarding the issue and deployment of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), particularly in areas suffering from severe drought or desertification.


What is Desertification?

Desertification in layman’s terms is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid environments. Human activities are the primary cause, followed by climatic fluctuations. It does not imply the growth of existing deserts, but rather the impact of dryland ecosystems, deforestation, overgrazing, poor irrigation methods, and other factors on land production.


India’s Performance to Combat Desertification and Drought

As per the State of India’s Environment (SoE) report, between the years of 2003 – 05 and 2011 – 13, the rate of desertification increased in 26 out of 29 states in India. Among the 78 drought prone districts identified by the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), 21 show more than half of their land under desertification. Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana account for more than 80% of the country’s degraded land.

By the year of 2030, India has committed to restoring 21 million hectares of damaged land. The following are the primary causes of desertification in India:

  • Water erosion [10.98 %]
  • Wind erosion [5.55 %]
  • Human-made/settlements [0.69 %]
  • Vegetation degradation [8.91 %]
  • Salinity [1.12 %]
  • Others [2.07 %]

Despite this, the government’s use of funds to establish drinking water schemes demonstrates that the desert development plan (DDP) is a low priority. Since 2018 – 19, no funds have been granted to the programme through the budget. According to a 2018 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), funds intended for implementing drinking water systems under the DDP regions have remained unused since the year of 2012. As of March 2017, the report revealed that states including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan have significant unutilized funds. Furthermore, following a change in financing arrangement in April 2015, some states did not release their portion of DDP monies from 2015 to 2017.


The significance of this day is to reclaim the areas that have been lost. Furthermore, the ever-increasing need for food, raw materials, roadways, and housing has resulted in the thawing of three quarters of the world’s ice free territory. To restore these damages, there should be a pressing need to recover from the pandemic and ensure people’s and the planet’s long term survival. According to the United Nations, land degradation has a negative influence on the lives of at least 3.2 billion people. Restoring degraded land, on the other hand, creates jobs, increases income, improves economic resilience, and enhances food security. Land improvement has a direct influence on climate change, resulting in reduced global warming, that is one of the many important sources of concern in recent years.


India will lead by example in combating desertification: Union Environment Minister

Union Environment Minister today said that we as a country make targets not under any global pressure but for our own country’s real sustainable development, and as in the past India will play a leadership role and will lead by example in combating desertification. Speaking at an event in New Delhi on the occasion of World Day to combat desertification and drought Shri Javadekar announced that India will be hosting the fourteenth session of Conference of Parties (COP – 14) from 29th August – 14th September 2019.

The Union Minister further highlighted that with about 30% of country’s total geographical area being affected by land degradation; India has high stakes and stands strongly committed to the Convention. Shri Javadekar said that various schemes have been launched by the Government of India such as: Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), Soil Health Card Scheme, Soil Health Management Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna (PKSY), Per Drop More Crop, , etc. which are helping to reduce land degradation. The Union Minister also unveiled the logo of COP-14 on the occasion.



CEO , NITI Aayog, Shri Amitabh Kant who was also present on the occasion said that the World Day to combat desertification is a unique occasion to remind global community that desertification can be effectively tackled, that solutions are possible, and that key tools to this aim lay in strengthened community participation and cooperation at all levels. Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri C.K. Mishra said that The World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) in 2019 will retrospect and celebrate the past years of progress made by India on sustainable land management.

The Union Minister also launched a flagship project on enhancing capacity on forest landscape restoration (FLR) and Bonn Challenge in India, through a pilot phase of 3.5 years implemented in the States of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in partnership with The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), through this flagship project aims to develop and adapt best practices and monitoring protocols for the Indian states and build capacity within the five pilot states on FLR and Bonn Challenge. This will be eventually scaled up across the country through subsequent phases of the project.

The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.At the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 13 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2020, and additional 8 million hectares by 2030. India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.

United Nations has 3 Rio Conventions namely, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared 17 June the “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought” to promote public awareness and the implementation of the UNCCD in the desertification affected countries.

India is hosting the Fourteenth session of Conference of Parties (COP – 14) from 29th August – 14th September 2019 at India Expo Mart Limited, Greater Noida. One of the primary functions of the COP is to review reports submitted by the Country Parties detailing how they are carrying out their commitments. India will take-over the COP presidency from China for two years until the next COP is hosted in 2021.


Over 5,000 representatives from over 197 countries drawn from national, regional and local governments, science and research communities, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations and all forms media will address the issue of combating desertification, land degradation and drought during the two-week event.

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