Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Landscape Restoration Approach for sustainable development
Why this article is important for UPSC?
It deals with land degradation and climate change mitigation strategy.
It highlights the flaws in certain Indian State governments’ tree cover and landscape restoration policy/models.
It suggests for innovative models and approaches to achieve the country’s climate goals.
We know that climate change is already having a significant impact on ecosystems, economies and communities. To prevent dangerous levels of global warming governments should act to limit global warming to less than 2ºC by taking concerted action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Therefore, restoring forest landscapes is recognized as one of the strategies for tackling some of the major environmental problems of our time, notably climate change, loss of biodiversity and desertification.
The Paris Agreement
Countries across the globe adopted an historic international climate agreement [Paris Agreement] at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015.
Long-term goals of the Paris Agreement:
to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C;
to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C; and
to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
Countries publicly outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the Paris Agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
INDCs are the primary means for governments to communicate internationally the steps they will take to address climate change in their own countries.
The climate actions communicated in these INDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the above provided long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD)
UN Convention on Biological Diversity (2011-2020) sets the bold goal of restoring at least 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020.
In 2015, India made a Bonn Challenge commitment – to restore 13 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.
India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) have also pledged to sequester 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent additionally by 2030 through enhanced tree cover.
The National Mission for Green India (GIM) is one of the eight Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at protecting; restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
To achieve this, India will need to extend tree cover on at least 28-34 million hectares, outside of the existing forest cover.
Flaws in tree cover/landscape restoration policy:
To achieve the above commitments, different States are working on various models and approaches to improve the ecology.
For example, in July this year, Madhya Pradesh planted 66 million trees in 12 hours to enter the record books, overtaking Uttar Pradesh’s record of planting 49.3 million trees in a day, in 2016. Other States are also expected to follow suit.
However, studies highlight that there is an over-reliance on plantations and neither the Bonn Challenge nor the NDCs are about large-scale plantations alone.
Need for improving the ecology through landscape approach:
The Bonn Challenge lays emphasis on landscape approaches — a model aimed at improving the ecology of a landscape as a whole in order to benefit local livelihoods and conserve biodiversity.
The NDC lays emphasis not only on carbon sequestration but also adaptation to climate change through a strengthened flow of benefits to local communities that are dependent on forests and agriculture for sustenance.
India’s policy framework on forests also lays emphasis on a landscape approach to manage forest and tree cover, so that the flow of multiple ecosystem services — including food security, climate mitigation and adaptation, conservation of biological diversity and water supplies — is secured.
Landscape approaches are better than large-scale plantations.
Landscape approaches seek to provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals.
(Limitations of large-scale plantation drives)
In this context, large-scale plantation drives alone –often do not lay stress on species selection,
do not lay stress on the quality of planting materials or survival rates,
nor recognize tenure and resource or rights to ensure that the benefit flows to communities,
do not really achieve the Paris agreement goals.
Way ahead: Shift from Large-scale plantations to Large-scaletree-based interventions
Restoration requires more than just planting the right species in large-scale. It has to consider and lay stress on species selection, quality of planting materials and survival rates. It should also consider social, economic, environmental objectives and the benefits to communities.
There is a need for improvement of degraded land on a large scale that rebuilds ecological integrity and enhances people’s lives.
India has numerous models that are suited for different regions and farm household sizes to draw upon, and must not rely on plantation drives alone to secure environmental and developmental outcomes.
Examples of some successful models:
The nation practises at least 35 types of agroforestry models that combine different trees that provide timber, fruits, fodder, fuel and fertilizers with food crops. This diversifies income from farming, and improves land productivity.
Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) systems where farmers protect and manage the growth of trees and shrubs that regenerate naturally in their fields from root stock or from seeds dispersed through animal manure can also deliver several economic and ecosystem benefits.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NABARD’s) ‘Wadi’ model and the Foundation for Ecological Security’s re-greening of village commons project are good examples of tree-based interventions which are proving to have great value in terms of cost-effectiveness as well as the range of benefits they deliver to communities.
An important success factor in large-scale tree-based programmes is security of tenure and land rights.
Therefore, India needs to design its tree-based programmes better to meet climate goals.
It is also important to have in place a performance monitoring system to quantify tree survival rates and the benefits to communities. This can be achieved through a combination of remote sensing, crowd sourced, ground-level monitoring with support from communities and civil society organisations.
As we regenerate trees through different interventions, it is critical to ensure that owners have the right to manage and use these trees.
It is also critical to use scientific evidence-based methodology with a participatory approach to determine the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to a certain land use.
Towards this end a tool called the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is being used in 40 countries to find the best methods for landscape restoration.
The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) is a tool produced by IUCN and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
It provides a flexible and affordable framework for countries to rapidly identify and analyse areas that are primed for forest landscape restoration (FLR) and to identify specific priority areas at a national or sub-national level.
The tool includes rigorous analysis of spatial, legal and socio-economic data and draws on consultations with key stakeholders to determine the right type of interventions.
In India, this tool is being piloted in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. Therefore through ROAM India can design its tree-based programmes better to meet climate goals.
India has the policy framework, the political will and financing to endorse landscape restoration. What we really need now is innovation and imagination to build replicable and scalable models with a participatory approach to achieve the country’s climate goals through landscape restoration.
Connecting the dots:
What do you understand by the term ‘landscape restoration’? What is its significance for a developing economy like India? Discuss.
TOPIC:General Studies 3:
Indian economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
The ongoing torrential rain in Chennai has once again triggered intense debates on how to prevent a repeat of 2015 Chennai flood disaster.
Massive flooding and water logging within a span of few days of torrential rains has become almost a recurring phenomenon.
Sadly, the great flood in Chennai in 2015, which left many dead and families impoverished, has not resulted into a policy course correction.
Prime reason for the threat of a massive devastation:
Chennai’s location – located along the highly volatile coast of Bay of Bengal, where heavy rains and cyclonic storms are common phenomenon.
Unplanned urban development and poor drainage systems.
Uncontrolled growth with no hydrological plan.
Role of waterbodies in absorbing excess water:
Generally, when there is heavy rain, the natural lakes, ponds, tanks, rivers and inter-linked drainage systems helps replenish the groundwater, hold back some water and release the excess to the ocean.
According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report, Chennai had more than 600 small water bodies in 1980s, which acted as a natural flood discharge channel and drained the spillover.
But currently, only a fraction of them could be found healthy as most of them are encroached upon to make way for concrete structures.
Chennai’s airport is built entirely on the floodplains of Adyar river.
The encroachment has resulted in the gradual reduction in the size of some major rivers and lakes.
Marshlands over the years have become the largest dumping site for solid waste.
In such a case, where open spaces and drainage courses have become the centre of human habitation, the rain water runoff settles on the roads causing extensive flood.
The problems exist at pan-India level:
The threat of a flooding and encroachments on ecologically sensitive wetlands is not happening in Chennai alone. Recent floods in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Surat shows that most urban centres of India fail to manage their drainage channels.
The Standing Committee on Water Resources (2012-13) on “Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies”, in its 16th report underlined that most of the water bodies in the country were encroached upon by municipalities and panchayats.
Natural disasters cannot be prevented, but better planning ican help mitigate the hazardous effects of such disasters.
A constructive urban planning with proper drainage system is the need of the hour.
Governments should take stringent action against encroachments on natural reservoirs, which is reducing water storage capacity.
A new legislation can be enacted to make encroachments on water bodies a cognizable offense.
The community can be involved to monitor the health of the tanks and lakes so that encroachers can be kept out.
The key to resolving both the issues of water shortage and flooding lies in repairing, restoration and renovation of small water bodies which have been largely encroached.
It is imperative to impose a blanket ban on all construction works in the marshlands.
Desilting of small water bodies and drainages should be undertaken in regular intervals.
Parks must have ponds and large development areas must have at least a two-acre retention area which will in turn recharge the aquifers.
Poor waste management leads to blocking of drains, canals and lakes and the ill-planned road projects are cutting off flood flows. These have to be addressed.
The initiatives listed above need to be undertaken on priority basis. Or else the flood related problems will become a recurring phenomenon. Absence of proper drainage, and encroachment of marshlands and water bodies are choking the Indian cities. This should stop.
Connecting the dots:
Absence of proper drainage, and encroachment of marshlands and water bodies are choking the Indian cities resulting into repeated floods in cities like Chennai. Elaborate how revamping the water bodies and drainage cycle will help solve the issue and what needs to be done in this regard.
Early introduction of BS-VI fuel in Delhi
Part of: Main GS Paper III – Environment and Ecology, Pollution, Health Issue
The Centre has decided to implement BS-VI fuel norms in Delhi by April 1, 2018, instead of the scheduled deadline of April 2020.
For the rest of the country, the earlier deadline would remain.
This has been done to deal with the critical pollution situation in the national capital.
Launching of BS-VI vehicles only for Delhi will be challenging as the fuel will not be available outside the capital and BS-VI vehicles cannot run on BS IV fuel.
Benefits of early introduction:
Early rollout of BS-VI fuel in Delhi gives an opportunity to the vehicle manufacturers to test and validate the BS-VI vehicles being developed by the auto industry so as to be fully ready for the April 2020 deadline.
The step will serve as the first stage in shifting the entire country onto BS-VI from BS-IV.
Part of: Main GS Paper III – Security, Naxalite issue, Extremists issue
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tripura embarked on a unique path to peace.
They did not dependent solely on security measures but involved investment in human development and people’s participation in the implementation of socio-political and economic policy as well.
One can provide Tripura model as an example where human development consequences of peace have been remarkable.
Economic and social investments and people’s involvement were essential components of the Tripura model which led to peace process in the State.
Repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, in 2015 was an outstanding symbol of the success of this model.
Rated Highways soon
Part of: Main GS Paper III – Infrastructure, Road Accidents, Role of NGOs
India Road Assessment Programme (IndiaRAP) – to rate highways’ safety levels, and seek to eliminate the most unsafe roads.
The move is intended to make Indian roads safer and curb fatalities.
The ratings are assigned on the basis of the level of safety which is ‘built-in’ to a road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Five-star roads are the safest while one-star roads are the least safe.
The IndiaRAP programme is being supported by different stakeholders (including NGOs) and will be hosted by the Asian Institute of Transport Development – to assess existing highways and promote the use of better design to make roads safer.