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Restoring our eco-system for future

This topic provides information about SDG goal 15 (Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reserve land degradation ) halt bio diversity loss.

Introduction

What does a tree mean to us? It may be the provider of fruits, nuts, leaves, twigs,timber etc. But is that all? 
A tree also:

  • provides shade and shelter to birds.
  • absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.
  • converts sunlight into food and energy.
  • captures dust, alleviates sound pollution, and helps in precipitating rain.

It is interesting to see how nature works in cycles.

SDGs

The trinity-soil, plants and water - strengthens each other only in appropriate balanced conditions. If this balance is lost, the result is catastrophic. Therefore, human intervention in the ecosystem should be very carefully executed.

Trees and animals are developed in an area as per the ecosystem. There are aliens and natives among plants. What will be good for our ecosystem? Are the animals playing any substantial role? All the living beings in an ecosystem are connected by a food chain. The destruction of one element in the food chain will impact the food of the next element and so on. The same applies to all living beings in the forest.

Why Panchayats?

Some of the activities mentioned above conform to the subjects of the Panchayats as per the 11thSchedule of the 73rd amendment of the Constitution of India –Social forestry and farm forestry, minor forest production, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation, minor irrigation, water management and watershed development.

Towards restoring our eco-system Gram Panchayat can work to:

PROMOTE Conservation of micro watersheds and/or identifiable natural units.
Community-based management of natural resources including forests, water bodies and sacred groves.
Planting of natural vegetation in high-slope areas, barren lands and other common lands.
Checking for soil erosion and invasive species.
Conservation of wetlands.
Nursery raising of local species of flora through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Green belt development and catchment conservation.
INITIATE Afforestation and protection drives.
Steps to make wetland cultivation chemical-free and sustainable.
DEVELOP Bio-diversity register for the Gram Panchayat.
Community monitoring system on poaching, illicit felling of trees and checking forest fires.
FACILITATE Renovation of existing ponds.
Construction of check-dams and contour bunds in catchments .
Cropping patterns linked to landscape.
Preparation of list of threatened species of flora and fauna.
Estimates of sustainable levels of resources (sand and water).
Irrigation, procurement, finance and labour to make wetland cultivation economical.
Identification of public lands, common grazing grounds and landslide prone areas.
Formation or rejuvenation of standing committees on natural resources, ensuring representation of marginalized groups.
PLAN Pollution monitoring and alleviation steps.
Resource-sharing (sand and water) arrangements with scientific water-use pattern.
Alternate livelihoods for labour engaged in resource extraction Coordination and convergence of eco-restoration programmes.

How do we begin to plan for eco-restoration in the Gram Panchayat?

SDGs

What can our Gram Panchayat focus on while Planning for eco-restoration and management?

  • Ensure the protection of water bodies, wet lands, forests from pollution,encroachment and indiscriminate usage.
  • Ensure the conservation of forest, afforestation of degraded forest, slopes,barren lands, public lands, public institution’s compounds, roads, etc.
  • Halt biodiversity loss, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.
  • Establish norms for conservation and utilization of natural resources.

How do we set targets to achieve the goals?

If these are our goals, what are the specific things we should plan to achieve and by when? Can our Gram Panchayat plan for the following?

SDGs

What can a Gram Panchayat Do?

  • Participatory mapping of land use, water bodies, forest, slopes, wet lands,degraded forest within the Gram Panchayat.
  • Forming and empowering the people’s committees by giving adequate information on schemes, agencies, Government departments, on each theme.
  • Develop action/conservation plans through participatory processes like logical frame work analysis for each natural unit.
  • Seek and identify appropriate agencies for vetting the plans as well as for funding and technical inputs.
  • Continue updating of the plans and norms for eco restoration and ecological management through Gram Sabha and participatory methods.
  • Develop appropriate norms for sustainable utilization of resources from common lands, water bodies and forests on materials like non-timber forest produce, sand, fish and water.

Resources to look for

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)
Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY)
Inegrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP)
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
Green India Mission
Social forestry schemes
National Afforestation Programme
National Bamboo Mission
Relevant state sponsored schemes and programmes

People to support

Registrants of MGNREGS, traditional farmers and labourers, NGOs, relevant government department officials, academic and research institutions.

Here is an example

The possible steps to be followed if the Gram Panchayat decides to rejuvenate the pond:

  • Mobilize the community based at the point water is flowing into the pond,owners of land where the water from the pond is used to irrigate, present users of pond, community well-wishers and activists.
  • Animate the meeting using trained volunteers so that a desire emerges to rejuvenate the pond.
  • Through subsequent mapping, identify the exact catchment and command areas and stake holders.
  • Develop plans and estimates for soil conservation in the catchment area, desilting of pond, renovation of irrigation canals for the command area,lift irrigation for the catchment area, construction of separate Ghats for men, women and animals, establishment of a fish hatchery, side protection of the pond by vegetative measures etc.
  • Liaise with agencies responsible for minor irrigation, MGNRES, IWMP, fisheries department for the preparation of detailed estimates and implementation of the programme.
  • Establish norms through participatory consultation, for ensuring the minimum storage level for bathing and fish hatchery unit, maintaining the earlier consumption of existing users, developing a cropping pattern based on water availability for farmers of catchment area, formula to share the operation and maintenance cost among them, cropping and utilization pattern among the farmers of command area, norms for catching fish and dividing the harvest among the community.
  • Ensure periodic meeting of concerned committee, publishing its reports on notice board, regular reporting to Gram Sabha and Panchayat committee.

How is this exercise linked to Sustainable Development Goals?

Sustainable development Goal 15 - Protect, Restore and Promote Sustainable Use of Terrestrial Ecosystems, Sustainably Manage Forests, Combat Desertification and Halt and Reverse Land Degradation and Halt Biodiversity Loss.

The Universal Targets

  • By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forest, wetlands, mountains and dry lands in line with obligations under international agreements .
  • Afforestation of all common lands and promote farm forestry and agro forestry.
  • 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 .
  • 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.
  • By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes,poverty reduction strategies and accounts.
  • By 2020, ensure environmental management framework at the Panchayat level.
  • Mobilise significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management adequate and provide incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation.

Now look at the goals and targets set by your Gram Panchayat – you are contributing to the Global goal and targets to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reserve land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Source : Handbook on Sustainable Development Goals and Gram Panchayats

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