In order to protect the ecological balance of the world, it is of utmost importance to realize the importance of land and its well-being along with realizing the ill-impact of desertification and deforestation that result in the degradation and poor health of the lands paving way for a drought – like situation that holds the potential to impact the health of billions of people.

The modern advancement of today’s world has indulged itself in the exploitation of the land resources that in a way is rapidly converting the earlier green jungles into grey ones. The expanding concretization of the rural and urban spaces have led to a shrinking phenomenon of cultivable lands that is in need of urgent redressal. The challenges of increasing land degradation, desertification and drought which are also impacting food production across the world are some of the issues that have been addressed in the UNCCD COP 14.

In order to identify the loopholes and understand the importance of effective land use policies, the 14th United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD’s) Conference of Parties (COP) was held in India. The twelve days event was organised from September 2 to September 13, 2019 at the India Exposition Mart Limited, Greater Noida. The event marked several meetings including 11 high-level, 30 committee-level and over 170 stakeholder meetings. It also showcased 44 exhibitions and 126 side events.

The humongous presence of participants from across the globe including as many as 196 countries and the members of the European Union crossed the 9000 mark. Environment Ministers from about 94 countries and other Ministers of top-notch level were present in the conference to discuss on environmental issues and sustainable solutions especially relating to land management. In lieu of their commitments towards a range of issues like ecosystem restoration, climate changes, gender and health disparity, and related fields.

In order to ensure that the UNCCD COP 14’s goals for 2018-2030 are attained in all actualities, the Convention after several extensive and elaborative discussions agreed on 36 decisions to accelerate the ground actions to be taken. The Convention adopted several decisions that include the guidelines on the implementation methodology of the four thematic policy frameworks approved at the last COP held in China, addressing the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) as a potential cause for the phenomenon of augmented migration, as well as dealing with the issues of drought, gender, sand and dust storms. The COP also agreed to include land tenure as a new thematic area under the Convention.

Other initiatives launched at the COP 14 included: the new UNCCD interactive Drought Toolbox that serves to strengthen countries’ preparedness and resilience; a road map for scaling up the Africa-led Great Green Wall Initiative to restore 100 million hectares of land and create 10 million green jobs by 2030; and an international coalition on sand and dust storms aimed at mitigating their transboundary impacts on human health, the environment and key economic sectors.

The success of the event along with India’s chairing the COP Presidency for two years adds feathers to the cap of the country’s commitments toward sustainable growth and environmental sensibilities. India has had the honour to host the COP of all three Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and land namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Through the Delhi Declaration, India announced its commitment to enhance implementation of the UNCCD’s goals by raising its 2030 land restoration target by 5 million hectares i.e., from the existing target of 21 million hectares to the new target of 26 million hectares; establishing a centre of excellence to promote South-South exchange; and taking into consideration land-based solutions for climate action and biodiversity conservation and the mutually supportive implementation of the three Rio conventions.

Other initiatives taken on the part of India for solidifying its commitment towards the goals of the UNCCD include the announcement of it restoring nearly 50 lakh hectares of degraded land in the next ten years and setting up a Centre of Excellence at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, for providing technical assistance to meet the challenges.

A pilot project has also been announced to restore degraded forest landscapes in five states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka over a period of 42 months.