NOV 2019  
TERI Analysis
The Role of Business in Restoring India's Degraded Land

Across the world, land degradation is threatening agriculture, livelihoods, and water availability, and worsening drought. ISRO's Desertification Atlas in 2016 showed that, from floodplains of Brahmaputra to dusty ravines of Chambal, one-third of India's land is under degradation.

Land degradation has far-reaching consequences and affects the well-being of the country's economy, environment, and people. India hosted the 14th session of Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the discourse to restore land is gaining momentum globally after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL). In the COP14, India has set a voluntary target to restore 26 million hectares of land by 2030. TERI's study titled 'Economics of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in India' in 2018 highlighted that annual cost of degradation is about ₹3177 billion and total cost of reclamation in 2030 will be about ₹3175 billion. Simply put, it costs far less to reclaim land than it does to degrade it. This conundrum, to a large extent, can be won if the public and private sector, along with communities, act as a whole.

Dr J V Sharma, Director, TERI, said that acidic soil, alkaline soil, wind erosion, water erosion, and forest degradation are the main causes of land degradation in India. 'We have invested ₹15 billion till 2013 through various schemes and plans for combating land degradation,' he said. 'However, India has a gap of ₹2240 billion to achieve LDN by 2030.' Dr Sharma also remarked that if the business sector increasingly supports and adopts sustainable land management techniques along its value chain, businesses would be a part  of the solution to multiple  development challenges.

At a corporate roundtable organized by TERI to discuss what role business could play in reversing land degradation, Shri Anil Kumar Jain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, said, 'Corporations can avail money from the government for the purpose of land restoration. India has spent nearly ₹7 lakh crore on land-related issues. Businesses can identify many opportunities where land recovery is a co-benefit.' He cited the example of China, which hosted the previous UNCCD COP, where corporates could work together towards restoring nearly 100 million hectares of land.

Speaking about the government's efforts to combat land degradation, Shri Umakant, Joint Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, said there are nearly 8200 watershed projects in the country, which have so far treated 20.5 million hectares of degraded land. These have benefited nearly 13 lakh farmers.

Shri Umakant added that communities living in areas where watershed programmes are being implemented are extremely vulnerable. Corporate support can help in providing scalability to their efforts under various watershed-livelihood generation programmes. Given that nearly 62 million hectares of land is yet to be treated across India, he said the corporates can work together with the Department of Land Resources to explore opportunities far wider than their immediate areas of operations. Various corporate representatives from diverse sectors also shared their experience in working on land-related issues.

Mr Suneel Pandey, Vice President, Procurement & Supply Chain, ITC Paperboards highlighted that ITC is a major buyer of wood for its agro-farming business. Responding on the need for strong business models for corporates to work on land-related issues, Pandey said that even CSR initiatives at ITC have 'a bottomline attached' with it.

Mr Anupam Badola, Manager Sustainability, Dalmia Cement Limited highlighted the importance of biomass to establish sustainable land management practices in the private sector. 'We are looking into growing bamboo to use as fuel and using agriculture residue for fuel,' he said.

Mr Chandan Bhavnani, Executive VP, Responsible Banking, YES Bank proposed that 10 per cent to 20 per cent priority sector lending (PSL) contribution can make a difference in sustainable agriculture management. 'Other specific ventures for livelihood-based models for communities, credit enhancements by loans and microcredits and also certain up-scaling projects such as using PET bottles into fibres, using grasses to make papers are also being promoted by the bank,' he added.

Ms Nandita Upadhyay, Deputy Manager, Tata Chemicals said that CSR activities undertaken by Tata Chemicals are mainly focused on land restoration and animal husbandry.

Mr Sandeep Shrivastava, Ambuja Cements Ltd, shared their attempt to reduce the salinity along the coastal belt of Gujarat and Rajasthan, transition from single-crop agriculture pattern to three crops in a year, moving towards 'water positive' agriculture by using 25 per cent of CSR funds, and also using more biomass, instead of coal, to  produce cement.

Dr Rajiv Garg, Coal India spoke about their plantation efforts on 39,000 hectares of non-forested land.  Mr Ashok Kumar Jain, Advisor, NITI Aayog, Government of India, pointed out that vast tracts of land are currently lying buried under flyash, which can be used to make bricks and can be sold in local markets. However, he cautioned that any such product should not flood the market and become a disincentive for the producers.

Talking on the role of the corporate sector in achieving LDN, Dr Pia Sethi, Senior Fellow, TERI said, 'Restoring land helps to strengthen supply chain resilience for land-based industries such as mining, forestry, and tourism. Investing in land restoration can also help to enhance their brand image.'

Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI emphasized the need to design interventions that make it attractive for corporates to use low-quality land for their business and in turn take on the responsibility to restore it. He said that such an effort can meet the objectives of both the government and the corporate sector. 'Business models that can help restore land, enabling policies, and skilling of people in land-degraded areas are crucial steps towards solving the problem,' he added.

This article first appeared at on September 20, 2019. Courtesy: TERI Web Desk.

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in Indias CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]