UN recognises India’s Namami Gange initiative

The United Nations on Tuesday recognised 10 ground-breaking efforts, including the cleaning of the Ganga – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious project, from around the globe for their role in restoring the natural world.

The winning initiatives were unveiled at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal and a special virtual gala event featuring actors Jason Momoa and Edward Norton, Dr. Jane Goodall, extreme mountaineer Nirmal Purja, singer Ellie Goulding, UK band Bastille, Chinese celebrity Li Bingbing, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo and British economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, among others.

The gala was hosted by Indian National Geographic Explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz.

The initiatives were declared World Restoration Flagships and are eligible to receive UN-backed promotion, advice, or funding.

They were selected under the banner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet.

Together, the 10 flagships aim to restore more than 68 million hectares — an area bigger than Myanmar, France, or Somalia — and create nearly 15 million jobs.

In revealing the World Restoration Flagships, the UN Decade seeks to honour the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The UN Decade acknowledges the time needed for restoration efforts to deliver results. Until 2030, regular calls for World Restoration Flagships will be launched. In expectation of increased funding to the UN Decade’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), additional submissions are being considered, including restoration drives from Pakistan, Peru, and an initiative focusing on Somalia and other drought-affected countries.

UNEP Executive Director Andersen said: “Transforming our relationship with nature is the key to reversing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

“These 10 inaugural World Restoration Flagships show that with political will, science, and collaboration across borders, we can achieve the goals of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and forge a more sustainable future not only for the planet but also for those of us who call it home.”

Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, said: “FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships.

“Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”

India’s ground-breaking initiative is restoring the health of the Ganga, India’s holy river.

The focus of a major push to cut pollution, rebuild forest cover and bring a wide range of benefits to the 520 million people living around its vast basin.

Climate change, population growth, industrialisation and irrigation have degraded the Ganges along its arcing 2,525-kilometre course from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.

Launched in 2014, the government-led Namami Gange initiative is rejuvenating, protecting and conserving the Ganga and its tributaries, reforesting parts of the Ganga basin and promoting sustainable farming. It also aims to revive key wildlife species, including river dolphins, softshell turtles, otters, and the hilsa shad fish.

Investment by the Indian government is up to $4.25 billion so far. The initiative has the involvement of 230 organisations, with 1,500km of river restored to date.

Additionally, there has been 30,000 hectares of afforestation so far, with a 2030 goal of 134,000 hectares.

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