World Environment Day 2024 - Eastern Mirror
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World Environment Day 2024

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By EMN Updated: Jun 04, 2024 12:25 am

Background

UN- Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm Sweden 1972, convened from 5-16 June where the United Nations Environment Programme and WED was created. The WED event has been led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since its inception in 1973.

UNEP is addressing triple planetary crisis:

•             Climate Change

•             Nature and biodiversity loss

•             Pollution & Waste.

This year 52nd World Environment Day is hosted by Saudi Arabia, with a focus on Land Restoration, desertification and draught resilience with a slogan “Our Land, Our Future. We are #GenerationRestoration”. WED 2011 was themed as “Forest- Nature at Your Service” and hosted by India. WED 2018 was themed “Beat Plastic Pollution” was also hosted by India. WED 2025 will be hosted by Korea with the theme of “Ending Plastic Pollution”.

Let’s Celebrate Our Achievements First

Forest Cover of the country is 24.62 % of total geographical area and growing every year. Nagaland has forest cover of 73.9 % of geographical area. States like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha are gaining more than 500 Sq Km of the forests within two years of assessment period as per State of Forests Report 2021 by Forest Survey of India. India has close to 1000 protected areas like National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation and Community Reserves. Nagaland is a pioneer and leader in establishing Community reserves. We have 189 legally declared community reserves in Nagaland which are more than 2/3rd of total community reserves in India. India’s per capita carbon emissions are significantly low at 2.29 tons compared to the global average of 6.3 tons. USA has 15 tons of per capita carbon emission. Cumulative historic CO2 emissions of the developed countries during industrialisation phase are phenomenally high and will be there in the environment for approximately 100 years which is the life of CO2 in nature. Comparison by developed countries about carbon emission is made not on per capita but country basis which is unfair. Blaming Asian countries for release of greenhouse gas Methane from paddy cultivation is also diversion from the issue as the methane has very short life in the environment. We are one of the lowest per ha cropland pesticide users in the world. Nagaland is almost entirely organic. Culture, Lifestyle and Developing Economy makes us reduce reuse and recycle. In Nagaland, there is no taboo for reuse of old clothes. We feed leftovers to pigs and other livestock which is not a waste but reuse. Doyang Reservoir from Nagaland is proposed as one of the Ramsar sites which are wetlands of international importance. In India, we have more than 72 % of global wild royal bengal tiger population, > 70 % great one horned rhinoceros, > 70 % asian elephant, > 90 % common leopard, > 90 % asiatic water buffalo, 100 % of asiatic lions. With 700 snow leopards, it is the highest in the world. Project Cheetah was criticised but now we have 28 individuals of original 20 translocated from Africa of which 14 cubs born on Indian soil. Story of Amur Falcon conservation in Nagaland which led to zero killing of birds from 120-140 thousand per year is unique, unprecedented and difficult to imagine for the global community. Fakim was the first complete LED village in the North East followed by Thanamir and Vongtsuvong. These are amazing achievements for the country and state having one of the highest density of human (431/sq km comparing to 51/sq km of global average) and largest livestock populations on earth and developing economy demanding land and its resources. India as well as Nagaland have no parallel in these regards.

Global Problems

Triple planetary crisis is placing the world’s ecosystems under assault.

Land Degradation: – Land degradation is defined as decline in productivity of land in terms of biodiversity and economy, resulting from various causes, including climate and human dominance, leading to loss of ecosystem. Billions of hectares of land are degraded, affecting almost half of the world’s population and threatening half of the Global GDP. More than 1/5th of the world land area coming to some 2 billion ha is degraded. India has about 105 million hectares or about 32% of India’s areas degraded.3.2 billion people or 40% of the world population are impacted by land degradation. Land degradation can reduce food productivity by 12 percent causing food prices to soar up by 34% by 2040. Farm productivity is going down. We don’t get micronutrients from the food produced on degraded land. It affects indigenous people who are least equipped to cope, rural communities, smallholder farmers and the extremely poor especially women and youth more. Per capita per year food waste at household level globally is 79 kg in 2022. Similarly, in India, it is 55 kg/capita/year.

Drought: – 55 million people are annually affected by drought, and more seriously animals and agriculture are affected. Lakes are drying. 80-90% of natural disasters in the last 10 years are from floods, droughts and severe storms.700 million people are at-risk of being displaced as a result of drought by 2030.

Desertificatio : – Desertification is the process by which vegetation in dry lands i.e. arid and semi-arid lands, such as grasslands or shrub lands, decreases and eventually disappears. It is happening because of overgrazing, deforestation, farming practices, urbanisation and other types of land development, Climate Change. Farming becomes difficult or even impossible in the area, Flooding chances are more (Dubai floods last month) and hunger and poverty becomes an issue. India has 25% of land undergoing desertification.

Local Problems

Small north eastern states are rapidly losing forest cover to the tune of 200 sq km in the same period including Nagaland which lost 235 sq km. Degradation of dense and moderately dense forest is not accounted for, otherwise the cumulative loss is much higher. Short cycles of shifting cultivation, population growth, urbanisation, logging, firewood collection are attributed as reasons. Soil formation is a slow process, taking 100 to 400 years to develop just one centimetre of topsoil, while soil erosion can occur rapidly during storms or over a few years. In Nagaland, 70% of the land is prone to erosion, with the Eastern Himalayas being particularly vulnerable. 29.1 % of Nagaland’s geographical area is under degradation. Nagaland was declared as a moderate drought hit in 2021 by the government state disaster management agency due to deficient rain and poor crop condition. One must have observed in Dimapur that natural water bodies (Pukhari) are being dumped with waste, filled with soil to convert into plots for construction. Older people admit that bore wells are required to go deeper and water quality or taste is getting affected by pollution. It’s common to observe that choking up of nallas/streams is happening due to plastic waste. Trails of popular tourist destinations like Dzukou Valley, Mt Japfü, Palkai falls, Mt Saramati, Mt Pauna, Mt Tiyi,  etc are littered with plastic. There is no wonder that more tourists are interested in visiting cleaner states like Sikkim and Meghalaya. Concept of desert invokes images of dry areas like Sahara or Thar or cold areas like Gobi and Antarctica. Nagaland qualifies to be called classical ecological concept of Green Deserts where there is luxuriant green vegetation but wildlife is depleted due to hunting.

Global Significance of the Issues

Issue of land degradation, drought and desertification is so serious that there are series of international pacts to fight this. The United Nations has declared a Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021 to 2030. The Bon Challenge, 2011 aims at restoration of 325 million ha of degraded land by 2030.30% land restoration is to be done by 2030 as per The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 2022. Along With this, 2030 is the deadline for Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was established in 1994 to protect and restore our land and ensure a safer, just and more sustainable future. It is a legally binding framework set up to address desertification and the effect of drought. UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018−2030 encourages signatory parties to apply it in their national policies, programmes, plans and processes relating to desertification/land degradation and drought.

Everyone is affected and responsible in Globalisation 

United Nation Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1992 also known as UNCED/ Earth Summit recognises that Social, Economic & Environmental factors are interdependent and evolve together, success in one requires action in other to be sustained over time. It means addressing environmental issues is critical to address social and economic issues. India and China in spite of being low on per capita carbon emission are critical for participation in global net zero carbon emission move to save the planet from dryness due to global warming issue as they are top two carbon emitters as a whole populous country. As the country participates, the action of the citizens gets influenced. Like drought resistant rice varieties grown by the small farmers of Nagaland can provide an adoptive mitigation solution to changing climate hence projects of national and international funding are being taken to conserve gene pool of such varieties. In March 2022, at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly, a historic resolution entitled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an International Legally Binding Instrument” was adopted. Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules (2021) followed the treaty in India that banned 19 categories of “single-use” plastics. It percolated into action at different speeds at different states. It’s common to see wooden or eco-friendly single use cutlery even in Nagaland which was uncommon a few years before.  It’s a slow but welcome change happening. We live in a global interconnected world where we are affected by each other’s action and hence we are responsible for our action to achieve global environmental goals irrespective of our contribution to the problems in the first place.

Hence the Issue of National and Local Priority

As we are affected and responsible for our good and bad environmental actions, our legal commitment as a country to the environment is as old as the Nation and the Constitution. The chapter on fundamental duties of the Indian Constitution clearly imposes a duty on every citizen to protect the environment. Fundamental duty – Article 51-A , says that “It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” Directive Principle of state Policy – Article 48 -A of the constitution says that “the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. Fundamental Rights – Article 21 for right to life is often interpreted as inclusive of the right to a healthy environment. Not only India is signatory to all major international obligations, but also in particular, as a follow up of UN- Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm 1972 we have a specific legislation for protection and improvement of environment and prevention of hazards to human beings, other living creatures, plants and property – The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. World environment includes water, air and land and the interrelationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganism and property.

Global Solutions

Ecosystem services from the forests are vital functions like provision of providing clean air and water that forests play for sustaining life on earth, humans in particular. A monetary value of flow benefits emanating from such forests can be as high as INR 7.41 lakh per hectare per year in India. Neighbouring Kaziranga provides flow benefits worth INR 980 Cr annually. Some of the tiger reserves also conserve enormous stock of timber and carbon which is valued in to INR 96,745 crore. Degraded ecosystems cannot provide such benefits. Ecosystem restoration is a process of reviving such natural spaces. Every dollar invested in restoration can bring up to US $30 in ecosystem services. 1 Billion ha is earmarked for restoration globally by 2030. Land restoration can reverse the creeping tide of land degradation, drought & desertification. Restoration boosts livelihood, lowers poverty and builds resilience to extreme weather. Restoration increases carbon storage and slows climate change. Restoring just 15% of land and halting further conversion could avoid upto 60% of the expected species extinctions.

Restoration, stopping drought and desertification can be done with

•             Reforestation and Afforestation,

•             Soil and moisture Conservation Techniques,

•             Water harvesting, conservation and judicious use,

•             Controlled Grazing,

•             Restoration of Degraded Areas,

•             Agro-forestry Practices

Deforestation, Overgrazing, Erosion, Over-cultivation, etc causes these planetary problems of which food choices we make and agriculture is very important.

Mission LiFE (‘Lifestyle for Environment’) – Mission focussed on Individual actions

Individual actions cumulatively contribute a lot to the solution of global environmental issues.  Therefore country came out with Mission LiFE which is an India-led global mass movement to nudge individual and community action to protect and preserve the environment.

Mode of action is to Change in demand by individual action to lead change in supply by manufacturers or producers to influence the government policy.

Mission life has 7 themes for individual action.

1.            Save Energy

2.            Save Water

3.            Say No to Single Use Plastic

4.            Adopt Sustainable Food System

5.            Reduce Waste

6.            Adopt a healthy lifestyle

7.            Reduce e-waste.

Some of the actions pertinent in context of Nagaland with little modification focusing on land restoration, halting draught, land degradation and desertification are given below.

•             Reduce food waste

•             Eco club – Commemorative fruit tree gifting/ plantation on birthdays

•             Shooting with camera – No catapult, airgun, gun, trap purchasing.

•             Walk or pedal more often

•             Buy local – no junk food

•             Focus on Diet which is regional, seasonal and plant reach

•             Pulses and millets save land, water and health also.

•             Create Vegetable garden to reduce Transport and storage.

•             Support Organic

•             Composting

•             Use pressure cooker

•             Run outdoor instead of treadmill

•             Washing – a car with a bucket rather than a hose pipe.

•             Change clothes rather than switching to heater, Fan, AC.

•             Stopping Bombing/ Electric current/ Chemicals/ Poison for fishing

•             Rainwater harvesting

•             Solar Electricity Net Metering scheme of the government not only reduces the carbon emission from thermal power plants but also reduces electricity bill drastically.

•             Balcony, rooftop plants.

•             Rain water harvesting

•             Use menstrual cups instead of sanitary napkins

•             Carry cloth bag, avoid plastic.

•             Social work to clean the compound

Kamdi Hemant Bhaskar, IFS

Conservator of Forests

Southern Territorial Circle

Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,

 Nagaland, Kohima

hkamdi@gmail.com

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By EMN Updated: Jun 04, 2024 12:25:39 am
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