With two billion hectares of land to be restored, New Delhi conference to be turning point

With two billion hectares of land to be restored, New Delhi conference to be turning point

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is hopeful about it’s next Conference of Parties to be held in New Delhi this September, where it is planning to pitch for involving private sector in land restoration by allowing them long term rights over land. Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD said that land tenure and drought are going to be two focal points he would like to be discussed in New Delhi.

“This is the 14th session of COP on the UNCCD after the 25 years of existence. It is a turning point of the convention. My expectation is to have great discussion about land tenure,” said the topmost UNCCD official.

Thiaw, speaking to media on the sidelines of global observance programme on World Day to Combat Desertification, said that land restoration cannot be left in hands of governments alone.
”It will not be sufficient. We have two billion hectares of land to be restored. The best solution for governments would be to mobilise private investments,”he said.

He advocated for long time rights on land or such other concessions to private sector, so that they find it attractive. “As long as business does not see that investing on restoring land is a good business case it would not happen. Governments would have to review some of the land tenure system in their country, may be some concession – that if you restore land, for next 50-60 years you can have concession,” said Thiaw.

He said that unless we resolve the land tenure issue why would anyone invest in land restoration. ”This has to be addressed properly. If the land continues to belong to someone else I would not invest on it. I hope therefore land tenure issue to be discussed,”he said.
Thiaw, at the same time, also indicated that it will not be a cakewalk to come to an agreement on the issue. “For some reasons countries do not seem to agree that it is an important issue,” he said.
However, he was hopeful that a recent guideline by FAO on land tenure can be used as starting point. ”It will need to be discussed at New Delhi where FAO, UNDP, UNEP and all the big agencies will be together,” he said.

Thiaw also praised India and China for their efforts in land restoration. “India as a nation is doing a lot in land restoration. Actually, the satellite pictures from US show that India and China have planted much more trees… and therefore land restoration is possible,”he said.
He said that in India still a large portion is to be restored, hoping that Indian government will take action. He also expressed hope that Indians themselves will continue to promote sustainable agriculture, as is being done in many states within India.

He informed that another important issue at COP-14 will be the issue of drought and how we mitigate it’s effect. Last year Germany experienced severe drought that cost it one percent of GDP. For the first time in its history Alaska had a drought. No region in world is now spared.  Thiaw, a native of African nation Mauritania, said that he himself has witnessed how frequency of severe weather conditions has increased. Earlier drought occurred every 20-25 years, then it came to 10-15 years, 5-7 years and now it occurs every year in some part or other of Africa.

He said that in New Delhi COP will have a great discussion on rural-urban connection.
“We do not necessarily understand what impact they have on land far away from where they live, because the consumption pattern that we have is not sustainable at all. As a city dweller now I use much more water than I used to have in my village where I come from. Because now I open a tap, it’s much easier. It’s the same for electricity, it’s the same for food, it’s the same for all consumption that we have. All our consumption pattern has impact on rural areas, and some time thousands of miles away somewhere. This is what we call telecoupling, when a product is produced somewhere and is consumed somewhere else. The consumer does not even know where the product comes from and how much litres of water is gone before it’s produced,”he said.

Thiaw expected New Delhi COP to be successful one. “We know we will have very successful COP in terms of logistics, but want to have successful COP in terms of outcome as well. Let us move together and see how we build momentum, so that by 2030 we achieve our ambition of restoring hundreds of millions of hectare of land,”he said.

(With UNI inputs)