THAT India has raised the goal for land-upgradation from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares, shows how keenly committed India is to the global dream of stemming environmental rot and stepping up the quality of the overall ecosystem. This is certainly a very ambitious goal that perhaps India alone is fully capable of achieving in due course of time. Yet, when Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi made the announcement at the 14th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) Convention to Combat Desertification, the delegates must have felt rather stunned at the enormity of the challenge India has taken upon itself to meet. But then, given the seriousness of the issue, only such measures the world over would be able to offer the leadership of the campaign of genuine universal interest.
That even the numbers -- from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares for upgradation -- are daunting, but more critical is the mindset to set such a high goal for the nation in the larger interest of humanity as a whole. This obviously means that India wants to make most serious, most no-nonsense, and most committed efforts to save global ecosystem from degradation and Mother Earth from desertification.
Convinced that this is everybody’s goal, India is desirous of playing its own role to the hilt with no stone remaining unturned. This is one goal that goes beyond political agenda of those who occupy seat of power. Much to the contrary, this is one goal that seeks to commit the whole nation to a goal that is part of a universal dream of upgradation of the entire ecosystem beyond national cleavages. For, when a country as large as India commits itself to achieving such a great goal big in size and big in intent, it seeks to benefit the whole world. For, each hectare of reclaimed wasteland is going to add to the increased glory of Planet Earth.
There could be nothing more sublime as a goal than this! Over time, lakhs of hectares of land got first under abuse and then disuse before going permanently bad. India has had countless lakhs of hectares of masrhes and moors and melancholic fallow lands that nobody dared or cared to bring back in use. The marshes got slushy and then went dry, the early stages of desertification. The harsh subcontinental heat dried those places over time and slush gave way to dust. This is the second stage in the ugly process of desertification. On such lands, forests do not grow, nor can man indulge in farming on those. Eventually, such lands go permanently bad and slowly get converted into deserts, out of use by humans. Some biodiversity does grow on such places, but its value is almost insignificant.
And because such lands have no utility for human communities, they get neglected all the more, in time allowing those to become deserts where nothing grows, where nothing can be grown. Only such landmass grows, expands and eats up what actually the humans must use. India now seeks to shrink such lands so that the human community would be able to use that reclaimed landmass. Given the method and manner of India’s current national leadership, such ambitious goals have a tendency to appear achievable. For, all this goal needs is an unwavering commitment to a larger cause.
Fortunately, the Government has such a political will and the nation a culturally enriched mindset that has been groomed in care of Nature as a universal sheath of protection from the evil of abuse and disuse. Traditionally, Indian society is steeped in thoughts of Nature as Mother. That cultural quintessence will add much punch to the Government’s efforts. A lot of public education, too, will have to be undertaken on this issue so as to enlist popular participation in the national commitment. Yet, given the nature of the task and the method of the current Government, this goal can be kept under the category of the possible rather than the impossible.