World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2017


The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on June 17 to promote public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought. This year the day emphasizes the important link between land degradation and migration. Among others, environmental degradation, food insecurity and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.
Land degradation impacts agricultural productivity, bio-diversity, groundwater and overall water availability. All these lead to a decline in the quality of life, eventually affecting the socio-economic status of the region. Land degradation has far-reaching consequences that affect lives and livelihoods of the population, often resulting in forced migration and socio-economic conflicts. The eradication of rural poverty is closely linked to the fight against desertification. The majority of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas of developing countries, where they depend on agriculture and related activities for their survival.  Without access to sustainable land use practices and institutional services, most poor farmers are obliged to cultivate degraded land that is unable to meet their needs.  This constant pressure on the land causes a decline in food production that further aggravates poverty and migration.
Odisha is already witnessing droughts, forced migration and food insecurity among the poor sections. Though 38 per cent of the State’s geographical area is forest, much of these forests are degraded. Some of the chronically drought prone areas in Odisha are Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput districts which occurs due to erratic rainfall in the area. The extreme difference in the maximum and minimum temperature, scarcity of rainfall, huge loss of green cover and vegetation are the main reasons behind drought. Many parts Kalahandi,
Bolangir and Koraput districts have developed symptoms of drought and degraded from drought prone to desert prone areas. In Odisha, agriculture sector contributes about 50 per cent of the State domestic product and provides employment to about 75 per cent of the total working force.  The basic problems in these areas include water scarcity which results in low productivity. Poor and unsustainable land management techniques also worsen the situation. Desertification often causes rural lands to become unable to support the same sized populations that previously lived there. This results in mass migrations from rural to urban areas.
Though India does not have a specific policy or legislative framework for combating desertification, land degradation and desertification gets reflected in many of the national acts and policies which have enabling provisions for addressing these problems. These Acts are Indian Forest Act, 1927, Environment (Protection) Act- 1986, National Forest Policy- 1988, National Agricultural Policy- 2000, National Environmental Policy- 2006, National Policy for Farmers- 2007, National Green Tribunal Act- 2010 etc. The National Action Programme to Combat Desertification (NAP-CD) formulated and submitted to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD) in 2001, identifies the need to address and incorporate natural resource conservation and management, socio-economic issues, strengthening the process of decentralisation of governance and formulation of more community driven projects and programmes,  public participation, strengthening the interface and co-ordination between various stakeholders, and awareness raising for sustainable development.
The Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) is being implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development. It is a comprehensive programme that brings together three different long existing watershed programmes viz. Drought Prone Areas Programme -DPAP (started 1973-74), Desert Development Programme – DDP (started 1977-78) and Integrated Wasteland Development Programme – IWDP (started 1989-90) to be implemented under Common Guidelines on Watershed Development, 2008. The main objectives of the IWMP are to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water. The IWMP is a comprehensive programme implemented to develop widespread degraded land across the country by common guidelines. These guidelines broadly indicate a fresh framework for the next generation watershed programmes. States are empowered to sanction and oversee the implementation of watershed projects within their areas of jurisdiction and within the parameters set out in these guidelines.
The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is implemented by National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB), the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The NAP aims to support and accelerate the ongoing process of devolving forest protection, management and development functions to decentralized institutions of Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) at the village level, and Forest Development Agency (FDA) at the forest division level. The National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1990-91 is based on the twin concepts of integrated watershed management and sustainable farming systems. This project is aimed at restoring ecological balance in degraded and fragile rainfed eco-systems and promoting diversified farming systems to enhance the income levels of farmers and village communities on a sustainable basis. Rainfed areas constitute about 85 mha, i.e. 60 per cent of the total 142 mha net cultivated area in India. Rainfed agriculture is characterized by low levels of productivity and low input usage.
Therefore, the National Agriculture Policy seeks to promote an integrated and holistic development of rainfed areas through conservation of rain water and augmentation of biomass production.Hence, highest priority is given to the holistic and sustainable development of rainfed areas through a watershed development approach.To give a special thrust to these areas the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) was set up in 2006.
The Integrated Watershed Management Programme may be implemented in drought prone areas to tackle the special problems faced by severe drought conditions. There is need for a better understanding of the scientific basis of droughts: their definition, monitoring, impacts, prediction and to bring this knowledge to sectoral experts involved in various aspects of drought management. Understanding the historical frequency, duration, and spatial extent of drought assists planners in determining the likelihood and potential severity of future droughts.

The characteristics of past droughts provide benchmarks for projecting similar conditions into the future. At the same time, successful experiences in adopting a comprehensive and active approach across various sectors in dealing with droughts should be widely shared, and the capacity to apply such approaches built and developed where needed.

World Day Against Child Labour 2017


The World Day against Child Labour was held on June 12. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) data, hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are involved in work that deprives them of receiving adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating this way their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour.

Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. The 2017 World Day against Child Labour focussed on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour. According to Census of India, 2011, there were 12.26 million working children in the age group of 5-14 years as compared to 11.3 million in 1991 revealing an increasing trend in absolute numbers though the work participation rates of children in 5 to 14 years age group has come down from 5.4 per cent during 2001 to 5 percent during 2011. The Work Participation Rate (WPR) for different age groups among children, the trend is different. The WPR for children in 5 to 9 age group has marginally increased from less than 1 per cent during 2001 to 1.4 per cent during 2011. In the case of 10-14 years age group children, the decline is only marginal from 10.4 per cent during 2001 to 8.7 per cent during 2011. This indicates that a substantial number of children in the 10 to 14 age group are in the labour force despite the decline in the proportion of children in the total population.
Millions of families are being forced to leave their homes and villages for several months every year in search of livelihoods.The children in such circumstances do not get opportunity for education and health care services. Children work in three sectors of the economy, such as the agrarian sector, industrial sector and service sector. Migration is one of the major contributory factors to child labour in urban areas. Child labour violates international law and UN Conventions, including the ILO child labour conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Over the past two decades, India has put in place a range of laws and programmes to address the problem of child labour. The Unicef and its India partners are working together to ensure that children are protected from work and exploitation which is harmful to their development. They are working to ensure that children remain in economically stable family homes and get the opportunity to go to school. To act in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Indian Government has enacted Commission for Protection of Child Right Act, 2005, which was again amended in 2007.This Act empowers the Government to constitute the National Commission for Protection of Child Right (NCPCR), thus in March 2007, the NCPCR was set up to protect, promote and defend child rights in the country.
States are also advised to constitute State Commission for Protection of Child Right in their respective sphere.The Government of Odisha enacted the State Commissions for Protection of Child Right Rule, 2009, which has facilitated formation of the State Commission for Protection of Child Right, which would meet at least once in four month to address the child right issue. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was enacted in 1986.As per the law, any person who employs any child in contravention of the provision of section 3 of the Act is liable for a term which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to two years’ or with fine which shall not be less than Rs 20,000 but which may extend to Rs 50,000 or with both. In order to stop child labour, the Government of Odisha has passed some rules. One of the important rules is the Odisha Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Rules, 1994. India formulated a National Policy on Child Labour in 1987. This policy seeks to adopt a gradual and sequential approach with focus on rehabilitation of children working in hazardous occupations. It envisioned strict enforcement of Indian laws on child labour combined with development programmes to address the root causes of child labour such as poverty.
Many NGOs have been working to eradicate child labour in India. Child labour has also been a subject of public interest litigations in Indian courts. Despite these efforts, child labour remains a major challenge for India. There are many solutions to stop child labour. Income of the families should be increased and education for all children irrespective of their economic and social background should be ensured, that helps children to learn skills and earn a livelihood.  According to the Economic Survey 2013-2014 conducted by the Planning and Coordination Department, 34,409 child labourers (between 5 and 14) were admitted to 812 special schools under National Child Labour Projects (NCLP). Similarly, the Odisha Economic Survey 2014-2015 conducted by the Planning and Coordination Department reveals that 32,715 child labourers were admitted to 700 special schools under the NCLP.
All children should get benefit from free and appropriate education, which would enable them to gain productive employment later in life. Children’s rights cannot be fulfilled and protected unless the Governments and international organisations look behind the broad averages of development statistics and address the urban poverty and inequality that characterize the lives of so many children.

World Environment Day 2017


The World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in more than 100 countries.
It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanising individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
‘Connecting People to Nature’, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the earth that we share.
Billions of rural people around the world spend every day connected to nature and appreciate their dependence on nature. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation. Besides, for many people, getting back in touch with nature provides a different experience to enjoy natural features like mountains, valleys, forests, deserts, water bodies, landscapes, flora and fauna. However, over one billion people live in the world’s biodiversity hotspots, areas high in concentration of unique species that are under serious threat from human activity.
Human population generates more waste and pollution than any other living organism on the earth. More demands for day-to-day basic needs deplete natural resources. Demands for natural resources, effects of globalised trade patterns on rural communities, and unequal spread of technological advancements are putting in danger the future of biodiversity and humankind.
Biodiversity is the foundation of life on earth. It is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems which provide us with products and services without which we cannot live. Oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, stable climate and recreation – all have their source in nature and healthy ecosystems. Unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity resources, particularly by developed countries, has serious adverse impacts, both local and global.
Coastal cities which damage their ecosystem can render themselves particularly vulnerable.  Odisha is quite rich in natural resources and has several bio-diversity hot spot areas. It has varied and wide spread forests harboring dry deciduous, moist deciduous forests as well as mangroves with several unique, endemic, rare and endangered floral and faunal species. To maintain the eco-balance and protect the flora and fauna, national parks are earmarked at Similipal and Bhitarakanika. Besides, the State has a number of wildlife sanctuaries.
Mangroves in the densely populated east coast of India have been degraded for decades and are still continuing to be degraded due to loss of biomass, overgrazing, fuel wood extraction and conversions.
This has posed many environmental hazards, especially in the coastal belt. Ultimately it has affected the socio-economic status of populace of Odisha in general and that of coastal terrain in particular.
Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the State’s population depends on natural resources to survive. This makes Odisha further vulnerable to climate change impacts. Food security is both directly and indirectly inked with climate change.
In many cases, urbanisation is characterized by urban sprawl and haphazard development of periphery of the town which is not only socially divisive but increases energy demand, carbon emissions and puts pressure on ecosystems. Bhubaneswar was a city with pleasant climatic condition throughout the year. Since last decade, this city is experiencing high population growth, urbanisation and distinct weather condition. Earlier, it had a sound coverage of greenery, but now it has decreased substantially, leading to uncomfortable conditions. Small water bodies and wetlands are increasingly being filled up by multistoried buildings.
The effects of climate change have been observed since last few years in Bhubaneswar. Bhubaneswar is currently witnessing several modern buildings and high-rise apartments to accommodate its growing population. The development activities in the city have led to large-scale deforestation, an increasing volume of traffic, pollution and temperature rise. The city’s expansion and lots of concrete structures are also the reason for microclimatic change over the years.  Besides, the  biodiversity rich locations such as green areas and water bodies  are being converted to residential and commercial land use without giving due regard to open space and green corridors.
The Chandaka-Dampada Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1982 to provide shelter to a population of elephants that was an extension of the Satkosia-Athgarh-Kapilas population. The sanctuary is home to leopards and other wildlife. The sanctuary was once connected to the forests of Athgarh and Kapilas through a narrow corridor on its northern side.
This allowed elephants to cross the Mahanadi river to reach these forests and return the same way. By the passing of time,  the corridor across the Mahanadi had been blocked. Chandaka is now an island within an urban sprawl. The haphazard growth of the real estate industry in Bhubaneswar is the biggest threat to Chandaka and Bharatpur forest.
The entire Bhubaneswar Development Plan Area (BDPA) is gifted with tremendous natural resources in the form of rivers as well as areas with dense vegetation/forest such as Bharatpur forest area and Nandankanan Wildlife Sanctuary. In the CDP, the entire river belt zone has been proposed for recreational land use with green buffers running all along the river embankment, thereby forming a continuous green corridor. Scattered green space within the compactly built up area may act as a continuous patch of green, widening at the edge of the city into the green belt and then into a rural landscape, establishing a coherent relationship between urban and rural areas.
The current decline in biodiversity represents a serious threat to human development. Biological resources constitute a capital asset with great potential for yielding sustainable benefits. Protected areas that are created to preserve biodiversity are in critical condition due to excessive anthropogenic pressure. Urgent and decisive action is needed to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems for sustainable management and use of biological resources.
Many decisions made by city inhabitants directly affect biodiversity in the city and beyond.  Biodiversity issues must be included in cities’ formal work programmes and action plans. Greenways may be designed as a planning strategy for multi purposes including ecological, recreational, cultural or other purposes compatible with the concept of sustainable land use.