This month from India Data Insights we are looking at SDG 15…

This month from India Data Insights we are looking at SDG 15…

Published on :- April 4th, 2023

Life on Land is listed as SDG 15 by the United Nations and aims to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. India is ranked 10th in the world for forest cover, making this SDG a significant priority, not only within the nation but on a global scale. To this effort, 9 key target areas have been identified:

1. By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

2. By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

3. By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

4. By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development

5. Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

6. Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed

7. Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products

8.By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

9. By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts:

  • Mobilise and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Mobilise significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation
  • Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities​​
  • In 2022, India was ranked 141st in the world for Life on Land, with Major challenges ahead and a stagnant trend.

    Forest Cover

    As per the 2021 assessment, 21.71% (approx. 712K sq km) of India’s geographical area is covered by forests, a positive sign given the country's target to achieve 33% forest cover. Only 3% of the forest cover is very dense, while moderately dense forest and open forest each covers approx. 9% of forest cover.

    India’s forest cover area has increased by almost 73K sq km (11.38% increase) since 1987 when the FSI (Forest Survey of India) started formally publishing the reports. Along with the increase in forest area, tree cover has grown by ~14.3 thousand sq km in the last two decades. As per the 2021 assessment report, 2.91% (~95.7K sq km) of India’s geographical area is covered by trees.

    Forests and Trees together cover approximately a quarter (24.62%) of India geographical area!

    State-wise distribution of forest cover, however, is skewed. India's north-eastern states have more than 75% of their geographical area covered by forests/trees. This percentage in states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Ladakh is significantly lower, with fewer than 10% of their geographical areas covered with forests and trees.

    Along with the promising signs of Forest cover, as per 2021 assessment, India has a carbon stock of 72 lakh thousand tonnes (~101 carbon stock per hectare of forest area). Carbon stock plays a vital role in climate change. Higher the carbon stock better is the environmental health of an area.

    Jammu & Kashmir leads the states with the highest carbon stock per hectare of 173. Hilly states like Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh have a per hectare carbon stock of more than 150. Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana have the lowest per hectare carbon stock of less than 70.

    While Forest cover is growing in some regions, as of 2019, 97.85 million hectares of the country's total geographical area is under desertification. 3.32 million hectares of which have been lost in the last 15 years to water erosion, vegetation degradation, and wind erosion, the three major contributing factors that account for 84% of the degradation.

    Protecting Life on Land

    Protected areas play a significant role in controlling poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna.

    As of 2021, ~5% of India’s geographical area was categorised as protected (terrestrial). Wildlife sanctuaries comprise 74% of the terrestrial protected area, while National Parks comprise 26%. Since 2004, a terrestrial protected area in India has increased by 8,903 Sq Kms, which is a promising sign.

    The increasing terrestrial protected area has also helped preserve and enable the growth of the tiger population in the country, which has doubled since 2006. As of 2018, India has a total tiger population of 2967, an increase of 1557 since 2006. 35% of India’s tigers are found in the two states - Madhya Pradesh (526) and Karnataka (524). Uttarakhand state has seen the highest growth in tiger population - a 148% increase.

    With the consistent increase in tiger population and forest cover, India is showing signs of growth that may only be sustained by continuous efforts by the government and private sector entities.

    For more insights on SDG 15, click here.

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