- UNEP has launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
- Over 4.7 million hectares of forests are lost every year
- 80% of world’s wastewater is discharged into oceans and rivers untreated
New Delhi: Every year on June 5, World Environment Day is observed across the globe with an aim to reinforce and sustain the awareness around environmental action. The Day is celebrated with a unique theme each year which is announced by UN Environment Program (UNEP) and this year’s theme is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’. However, UNEP is taking a step forward to ensure action with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
As per UNEP, the term ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ means to assist in ecosystems’ recovery, which has been degraded by deforestation, pollution, and other human activities.
Ecosystem restoration can take place in other ways including planting trees, greening cities, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts, and rewilding gardens. Rich biodiversity and green ecosystems yield immense benefits says the organisation.
REIMAGINE. RECREATE. RESTORE. This is our moment. We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature. Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid, urges the UNEP.
Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity, says UNEP.
Some Important Facts By UNEP
- Every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch, and over the last century, we have destroyed half of our wetlands.
- Over 4.7 million hectares of forests, an area larger than Denmark, are lost every year.
- If the temperature warms up beyond 1.5°C, over 70 per cent of coral reefs will die, and at 2°C, all reefs over 99 per cent will be lost. The frequency and intensity of droughts, storms and extreme weather events are increasingly likely above 1.5°C.
- To prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent, every year till 2030.
- Present in more than 180 countries, peatlands are vital, super-powered ecosystems. Though they cover only 3 per cent of the world’s land, they store nearly 30 per cent of its soil carbon.
- Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is at one pace for potentially catastrophic climate change.
- Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is discharged to oceans and rivers without treatment.
- Wetlands are being drained for agriculture, with some 87 per cent lost globally in the last 300 years.
- In 2015, nations agreed to a legally binding commitment in Paris to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but also offered national pledges to cut or curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This is known as the Paris Agreement.
- Countries are not on track to fulfil the promises they have made. The initial pledges of the Paris Agreement are insufficient to meet the target, and governments are expected to review and increase these pledges as a key objective. The updated Paris Agreement commitments will be reviewed at the climate change conference in November 2021. This conference will be the most important intergovernmental meeting on the climate crisis since the Paris agreement was passed in 2015.
COVID-19 and Environment
The emergence of COVID-19 has also shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens, including coronaviruses, to spread, says the UNEP.
The importance of caring for the environment we live in has been highlighted by Environment Day through the years.
Environment action is not only necessary for our health but for our survival too, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been an example of the broken relationship between humans and the environment.
As per a study titled ‘Nature and COVID-19: The pandemic, the environment, and the way ahead’, the SARS-CoV-2 virus may have emerged from wildlife reservoirs linked to environmental disruption. The study decodes that the novel coronavirus was transmitted to humans via the wildlife trade, and its spread was facilitated by economic globalisation. The pandemic arrived at a time when wildfires, high temperatures, floods, and storms amplified human suffering, it explains.
Emerging infectious diseases always have environmental dimensions, the study says.
Furthermore, it adds that climate change influenced the spread of COVID-19 and responses to it.
According to WHO, climate change may indirectly affect the COVID-19 response, as it undermines environmental determinants of health, and places additional stress on health systems.
More generally, most emerging infectious diseases, and almost all recent pandemics, originate in wildlife, and there is evidence that increasing human pressure on the natural environment may drive disease emergence. Strengthening health systems, improved surveillance of infectious disease in wildlife, livestock and humans, and greater protection of biodiversity and the natural environment, should reduce the risks of future outbreaks of other new diseases, says WHO.
Moreover, due to the pandemic, dependence on disposables has been such that the usage of plastic has increased two-fold, according to a report titled ‘Increased plastic pollution due to COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and recommendations.’
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.