India Presents the First Bonn Challenge Country Progress Report
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
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Despite the limited data on private sector and NGO restoration efforts, the report emphasizes the vital role that all stakeholders play in the planning and implementation of restoration programmes.

At the first Bonn Challenge roundtable in Asia, held in May 2017, restoration pledges for the region crossed the 150 million hectare milestone.

14 August 2018: India has published the first-ever country progress report under the Bonn Challenge on forest landscape restoration, which concludes that the country is on track to achieve its pledge of restoring 13 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030.

The report titled, ‘Bonn Challenge and India: Progress on Restoration Efforts across States and Landscapes,’ is co-published by the India Country Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Based on a survey of secondary data on interventions by government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOS) and the private sector, the report states that India restored approximately 9.8 million hectares of degraded land between 2011 and 2017, with nearly 95% of the restoration activities reported being led by government agencies. Despite the limited data on private sector and NGO restoration efforts, the report emphasizes the vital role that all stakeholders play in the planning and implementation of restoration programmes, highlighting NGOs’ technical expertise and knowledge of local conditions and private companies’ financing capacity.

Among “transformational changes” brought about by public restoration programmes, the report notes increased biodiversity and forest productivity linked to the Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) approach. Some of the benefits listed include the creation of livelihood opportunities in remote areas by linking villages to markets for sale of non-timber forest products, better irrigation facilities for crop production, and improved transport and health care facilities. Moreover, the report notes that by providing villagers with opportunities to participate in micro-plans, the JFMC model has “ushered in a new era of forest protection in the country” by successfully involving communities in the protection and sustainable harvesting of natural resources and bringing in expertise and aligned interests of multiple stakeholders in forest restoration, “thereby making it socially more inclusive.”

The Joint Forest Management Committee model has “ushered in a new era of forest protection in the country” by making forest restoration “socially more inclusive.”

On the role of the private sector, the report analyzes submissions by 11 private companies, noting that many afforestation and restoration activities undertaken by private companies are often a result of legal compliance, or form part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations. The report finds that out of the total 193,290.3 hectares of land restored and afforested by the surveyed private companies, around 97% was under mixed plantations containing fast-growing exotic tree species as well as cash crops. It calls for “a more bio-centric approach” to motivate private companies to adopt more sustainable and ecological models of restoration based on native species that are adapted to local conditions and better suited to the recovery of faunal diversity.

Drawing on 14 submitted contributions by NGOs, the report notes that this sector plays a “small but active role” in the restoration of degraded lands, including unique and threatened ecosystems such as grasslands and mangroves. Of the total 352,677.9 hectares restored by the surveyed NGOs, the report notes that a total of 322,610.9 hectares (91.5%) was restored using mixed plantation model, while 8.5% of restoration activities were based on using a mono plantation model, mainly in coastal areas planted with mangrove.

The report draws on five case studies across seven states “that have all the indicators of a good restoration model” with a view to promoting broader learning and upscaling of restoration efforts. The case studies highlight different approaches and partnership arrangements, including from a government-funded joint forest management committee in Nagaland, NGO-led grassland and rainforest projects in Gujarat and Valparai respectively, and efforts by Tata Power to reverse environmental degradation in Lonavala region caused by the construction of the Valvan Dam.

While concluding that India is appropriately positioned to meet its restoration commitments under the Bonn Challenge, the report notes that additional efforts are needed to comprehensively capture the restoration efforts being undertaken by all actors in future stocktaking reports. The report further emphasizes the importance of verifying the quality of reported restoration efforts through the adoption of a robust monitoring, evaluation and learning system, and recommends that better use be made of NGOs’ technical knowledge and use of scientifically robust monitoring protocols to support such efforts.

Noting overall progress towards forest landscape restoration goals across the region, IUCN observes that at the first Bonn Challenge roundtable in Asia, held in May 2017 in Palembang, Indonesia, restoration pledges crossed the 150 million hectare milestone.

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. [Publication: Bonn Challenge and India: Progress on Restoration Efforts across States and Landscapes] [IUCN Press Release] [Report of the First Asia Bonn Challenge High-Level Roundtable]

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