World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

On 17th June, the world commemorates Desertification and Drought Day. As the name implies, the day is dedicated to the rehabilitation of damaged land as well as the creation of and raising awareness about soil desertification prevention. People all across the world have been encouraged to participate in virtual activities, webinars, and presentations hosted by specialists on the topic to commemorate the day. The day also attempts to develop practical solutions to combat desertification which can be implemented by the majority of countries and individuals worldwide.

The topic has a high probability of being asked as a Current Affairs Question in IAS Prelims and Mains as environment related developments are a hot topic for UPSC.

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History of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought has been commemorated on 17th June since the year of 1995. As in, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 17th as the “World Day to Combat Desertification” in the year of 1994 to increase community awareness regarding the issue and deployment of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), particularly in areas suffering from severe drought or desertification.

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What is Desertification?

Desertification in layman’s terms is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid environments. Human activities are the primary cause, followed by climatic fluctuations. It does not imply the growth of existing deserts, but rather the impact of dryland ecosystems, deforestation, overgrazing, poor irrigation methods, and other factors on land production.

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Note: IAS exam could ask basic facts about this topic as it holds international as well as domestic importance.

India’s Performance to Combat Desertification and Drought

As per the State of India’s Environment (SoE) report, between the years of 2003 – 05 and 2011 – 13, the rate of desertification increased in 26 out of 29 states in India. Among the 78 drought prone districts identified by the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), 21 show more than half of their land under desertification. Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana account for more than 80% of the country’s degraded land.

By the year of 2030, India has committed to restoring 21 million hectares of damaged land. The following are the primary causes of desertification in India:

  • Water erosion [10.98 %]
  • Wind erosion [5.55 %]
  • Human-made/settlements [0.69 %]
  • Vegetation degradation [8.91 %]
  • Salinity [1.12 %]
  • Others [2.07 %]

Despite this, the government’s use of funds to establish drinking water schemes demonstrates that the desert development plan (DDP) is a low priority. Since 2018 – 19, no funds have been granted to the programme through the budget. According to a 2018 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), funds intended for implementing drinking water systems under the DDP regions have remained unused since the year of 2012. As of March 2017, the report revealed that states including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan have significant unutilized funds. Furthermore, following a change in financing arrangement in April 2015, some states did not release their portion of DDP monies from 2015 to 2017.

Significance

The significance of this day is to reclaim the areas that have been lost. Furthermore, the ever-increasing need for food, raw materials, roadways, and housing has resulted in the thawing of three quarters of the world’s ice free territory. To restore these damages, there should be a pressing need to recover from the pandemic and ensure people’s and the planet’s long term survival. According to the United Nations, land degradation has a negative influence on the lives of at least 3.2 billion people. Restoring degraded land, on the other hand, creates jobs, increases income, improves economic resilience, and enhances food security. Land improvement has a direct influence on climate change, resulting in reduced global warming, that is one of the many important sources of concern in recent years.

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