Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.
12,086.70114.9
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

Restoring land for livelihoods, climate and economy

Better management of existing water systems, along with the use of more efficient irrigation technologies are essential.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Sep 10, 2019, 10.59 AM IST
0Comments
Getty Images
iStock-644979810FINAL
Food production is the principal driver for land use. Food losses hence mean an equivalent share of land use, water, fertilizer and pesticides has been wasted.
MSME
By René Van Berkel

India is hosting the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In his opening remarks, Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of UNCCD,called on global community to invest in land restoration. He remarked that worldwide over 3.2 billion people are at risk from land degradation, which worsens the impacts of climate change and may force 700 million people to migrate by 2050. As about 2/3rd of India's land and twenty-five percent of global land has already degraded, it is time to ask where we are heading in 2050 and take concerted actions to direct to the future we want!

Land connects water, energy and food production, and integrated solutions are urgently required to address this nexus. The joint project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is developing integrated assessment tools to assist with scenario planning and policy making to address water, energy, food and land challenges. The global assessment is highlighting vulnerability hotspots for land use conflict which are likely to further escalate particularly where higher population growth and density coincide with lower per capita income, increasing water stress and biodiversity loss.

India and South Asia are home to several global hotspots. The Indus River Basin has been assessed by means of pilot. It was found that hundreds of millions rural and urban dwellers are at risk, the vast majority of which are extremely vulnerable. The multi-sector risks are driven by: intensive agriculture, supported heavily by irrigation, and fertilizer inputs; and rising temperatures, leading to intense heatwaves affecting crops and humans and driving energy use; and increasing hydro-climate variability which undermines clean energy access from installed and potential future hydro-power.

At COP14, the International Resources Panel (IRP) released a think piece onland restoration for achieving the globally agreed, universal 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This confirmed potential for positive co-benefits from land restoration for all SDGs, in particular in areas like (rural) poverty alleviation, food security, clean water, good health and well-being, and energy and climate.

Slowing down, halting and ultimately reversing land degradation calls for changes and innovations in the way land is used as well as in the socio-economic drivers for this land use, in particular the production of water, energy and food. Many good practices and innovations exist, which not only contribute to land restoration yet also create livelihoods, buffer against climate change and support business and economy at large. Several of these were showcased and debated during the Innovation Summit, on 10-11 September, organized by the United Nations in India in parallel to the COP.

Better management of existing water systems, along with the use of more efficient irrigation technologies are essential. Choices for land allocation among different crops, the extent to which these crops are irrigated, the use of non-water inputs, and the type of irrigation technologies are critical. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is for example piloting innovative IT based solutions to the management of irrigation dams. Optimization of irrigation planning and techniques is a further area for improvement, addressed under joint programme of UNIDO with Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) on low carbon technologies. One of examples promoted is 'Smart Nanogrid', designed by SunMoksha.

This is an integrated and comprehensive IT system for management of (solar) energy, water and soilsthat enables farmers and communities to irrigate to actual requirements based on soil parameters, weather forecasts and specific water requirements for each crop at specific stage in the cropping cycle. Such water management solutions benefit from energy-efficient pumping systems. Multiple innovations for pumping energy efficiency are being supported by UNIDO and BEE, including development of efficient slip start synchronous motor-based pumps (by Shakti Pumps), DC powered high speed pumps (by Basil Energetics) and portable solar pumps for small holders (by Khethworks).

All energy sources have a land impact, but the direct footprint of bioenergy is greater than that of wind, solar and fossil fuels. Degraded lands that are uneconomic to return to bio-productive uses can be targeted for wind and solar energy installations - such as for example large scale PV solar farms in the highland deserts in Ladakh. As per IRP estimates, degraded land has an estimated renewable energy potential of 25-90 EJ globally.

Moreover, restored and rehabilitated land can be used for the sustainable production of both traditional (firewood) and modern bioenergy (biofuels). In India, UNIDO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners are amongst others supporting efforts to establish landscape specific agroforestry systems, use bamboo for production of bio-ethanol, use paddy straw and other crop residues for power generation, and convert food processing and distribution wastes into biogas. Punjab based start- up Rays Enservispiloting a novel process to take oily food processing residues such as vegetable oil and wax and animal fat and turn these into a diesel substitute - an innovation promoted through UNIDO's Global Cleantech Innovation Programme, in cooperation with the Ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

Food production is the principal driver for land use. Food losses hence mean an equivalent share of land use, water, fertilizer and pesticides has been wasted. Wastage of food happens at any stage between the farm and fork, and is estimated by FAO to range between 20 and 45% between different crops and produce. Perishable produce, such as dairy, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, in particular, are prone to high losses due to adequate processing and cooling, each of which can be addressed with frugal innovations.

UNIDO identified for example Promethean Power which supplies Cold Storage Solutions (CSS) to chill, store and transport perishables at an economic cost. Its stationary cooling system can chill farm produce under erratic grid conditions without requiring a diesel generator. S4S produces innovative small-scale solar driers suitable to dry fruits, vegetables and spices that would otherwise typically go to waste during peak of peak of growing season.

These and other innovations show a pathway, yet consolidated efforts are required to scale up and mainstream land restoring solutions and indeed achieving the UNCCD goal of Land Degradation Neutrality. Global and national policy are to be combined with landscape level assessment and planning to determine land restoration priorities and solutions that make most sense in terms of livelihoods, climate and economy. Cleantech innovations can cut costs and improve revenues from land restoration, yet require innovation ecosystem support to fast-track commercialization and widespread utilization.

( The writer is Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to India. The views expressed are personal.)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

Also Read

View: Things to do for the economy

India to be an outlier in the global economy: Report

Urban Joblessness: The state of unemployment in the economy

Economy to BJP: Are you listening?

ET View: Economy, the winner

Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.
Download The Economic Times Business News App for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.

Other useful Links


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service