Environment Day: A clarion call for land restoration

Every year on June 5th, the world comes together to celebrate World Environment Day, raising awareness and taking action to protect our planet.
Environment Day: A clarion call for land restoration

Dipak Kurmi

(The writer can be reached at dipakkurmiglpltd@gmail.com.)

Every year on June 5th, the world comes together to celebrate World Environment Day, raising awareness and taking action to protect our planet. This year’s theme, “Our Land, Our Future,” shines a spotlight on the critical issues of land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.

As the host nation for World Environment Day 2024, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leading the charge in addressing these pressing environmental challenges. Facing its own battles with land degradation, desertification, and drought, the Kingdom has launched bold initiatives like the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. These efforts aim to deliver sustainable solutions both nationally and regionally. The Kingdom’s leadership extends globally as well. During its presidency of the G20 in 2020, Saudi Arabia championed the adoption of the Global Land Restoration Initiative, recognising the urgent need for collective action.

The Dire Situation: The triple planetary crisis—climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution—is placing immense strain on the world’s ecosystems. Billions of hectares of land are degraded, affecting nearly half of the global population and threatening half of the world’s GDP. Rural communities, smallholder farmers, and the extremely poor bear the brunt of this crisis. The consequences are far-reaching. Land degradation, drought, and desertification exacerbate food insecurity, poverty, and vulnerability to extreme weather events. Climate change, in turn, acts as a driver, intensifying these challenges and creating a vicious cycle.

The Path Forward: Land Restoration: Land restoration offers a powerful solution to reverse this tide of degradation. Every dollar invested in restoration can yield up to $30 in ecosystem services, boosting livelihoods, reducing poverty, and building resilience to climate impacts.

Restoring just 15% of the degraded land and halting further conversion could prevent up to 60% of projected species extinctions. Moreover, land restoration aids in carbon sequestration, slowing the pace of climate change. Encouragingly, countries have pledged to restore one billion hectares of land—an area larger than China. If these commitments are fulfilled, the impact will be monumental.

The Role of Saudi Arabia: Through its hosting of World Environment Day 2024 and the upcoming UN Convention to Combat Desertification conference in December, Saudi Arabia has a unique opportunity to catalyse global momentum and action towards land restoration goals.

By addressing land degradation, drought, and desertification, the Kingdom is not only safeguarding its own natural resources but also contributing to the broader fight against climate change, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity. The Relevance of Environmental Protection: The significance of environmental protection cannot be overstated. Our land is the foundation upon which our societies, economies, and ecosystems thrive. Protecting and restoring our land is not merely an ecological imperative but a fundamental necessity for our collective well-being and prosperity.

As we celebrate World Environment Day 2024, let us embrace the theme “Our Land, Our Future” as a call to action. By investing in land restoration, combating desertification, and building drought resilience, we can secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

The current situation in Assam and the Northeastern Region: Assam and the Northeastern region of India face unique environmental challenges. Rapid urbanisation, deforestation, and unsustainable agricultural practices have led to land degradation and soil erosion in many areas. Additionally, the region is prone to natural disasters such as floods and landslides, exacerbated by climate change.

Initiatives are underway to address these issues, including afforestation efforts, soil conservation measures, and the promotion of sustainable farming practices. However, more concerted action is needed to protect the region’s rich biodiversity and ensure the long-term resilience of its ecosystems. As we observe World Environment Day 2024, it is crucial to raise awareness about the specific environmental concerns facing Assam and the Northeast, and to encourage local communities, policymakers, and stakeholders to prioritise land restoration, drought mitigation, and sustainable resource management. By embracing the principles of this year’s theme, “Our Land, Our Future,” we can work towards a greener, more resilient, and sustainable future for this unique and ecologically significant region of India.

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