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PM Modi urged UNCCD leadership to focus on water management, land restoration, ending plastic usage

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NEW DELHI

Announcing that India would raise the total area to be restored of its land degraded status from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares before 2030, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged the leadership of UN body of combat desertification to create a Global Water Action Agenda, which is central to the land degradation neutrality strategy.

Addressing a high-level segment meeting of the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), on the 8th day, the Prime Minister also said that time has come for even the world to say goodbye to single-use plastic.

“My government has announced that India would put an end to single waste plastic in the coming years. We are committed to the development of environment-friendly substitutes and also an efficient plastic collection and disposal method,” the Prime Minister said.

The Conference, in which India assumed the COP presidency from China for two years, is being held at Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The CoP began on September 2 and will end on September 13. Highlighting the consequences of land degradation, Mr Modi said that desertification affects over two-third of the countries in the world.

“Friends you will be shocked to know that desertification affects over 23rds of countries of the world. This makes a compelling case for action on land front combine this with the water crisis facing the world. Because when we address degraded lands we also address water scarcity issue”, the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister also said that 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.

“I call upon the leadership of UNCCD to create a Global Water Action Agenda which is central to the land degradation neutrality strategy”, he said.

Pointing out to the steps the NDA government has taking, the Prime Minister said that his government has launched a program to double the income of the farmers by increasing crop yield through various measures.

“This includes land restoration and micro-irrigation. We are working with the motto of per drop more crop. At the same time we are also focusing on zero budget natural farming. We have also introduced a scheme to determine the soil quality of each of the farms and are issuing soil health cards to the farmers. This enables them to grow right type of crops, fertilisers, and use the right quantity of water. So far about 217 million soil health cards have been distributed. We are increasing the use of bio fertilisers and reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers”, he added.

The Prime Minister also stated that water management is another important issue and his government has created Jal Shakti Ministry to address all water-related important issues in totality.

“Recognising the value of water in all forms we enforced zero liquid discharge in many industrial processes. The regulatory regime provides for treatment of wastewater to a degree that it can be put back into the river system without harming life in the water”, he said.

“Friends I would like to draw your attention to 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”, he added.

Highlighting the importance of the sustainable development, the Prime Minister said that health of the land is important and India’s deep cultural roots of maintaining a healthy balance between land, water, air trees and all living beings.

“It would make you happy that India had been able to increase its tree cover. Between 2015 to 2017 India’s tree and forest cover had been increased by 0.8 Mn hectares. In India, any diversion of forest land for development purposes has to be compensated by making an equivalent landmass available for afforestation. It is also required that a monetary payment of the value of timber which such forest land would have yielded”, he added.

He also said that last week funds amounting to nearly 6 Billion US dollar, means around Rs 50,000 crore have been released to the state governments in lieu of such diversion for development of forest lands. The Prime Minister also announced that India would be happy proposing initiatives for greater South-South Cooperation on addressing the issue of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.

While assuring help to friendly countries in developing land restoration strategies through cost-effective satellite, and space technology, Mr Modi pointed to how India is using remote-sensing and space technology for multiple applications including land restoration.

The Prime Minister started his speech with a reference on Indian tradition related to land, “For ages, we in India have always given importance to land. In Indian culture, the Earth is held as sacred and treated as mother. As we wake up in the morning and we touch the earth with our feet, we seek the forgiveness of mother earth by praying.”

Union Forest, Environment and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar and officials of UNCCD also attended the meeting.

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