UN Names Terai Arc Landscape as World Restoration Flagship - GulfToday

UN Names Terai Arc Landscape as World Restoration Flagship

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Representational image.

On Nepal’s side alone, more than 7.5 million people and a plethora of wildlife depend on the vast Terai Arc Landscape.

The Terai Arc Landscape shared by India and Nepal, which is one of the world’s most critical habitats for tigers, is among the seven initiatives as UN World Restoration Flagships from Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean, and South Asia named by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A UNEP press release says that these initiatives include ecosystems at the tipping point of outright degradation resulting from wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pollution. They are now eligible for technical and financial UN support. The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by UNEP and FAO – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives that support global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China. The winning initiatives have been announced ahead of the Sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), the world’s highest-level decision-making body for matters related to the environment, taking place from February 26 – March 1 at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Together, the seven new flagships are expected to restore nearly 40 million hectares − an area almost 600 times the size of Nairobi − and create around 500,000 jobs.

The UN website on the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 states that the Terai Arc Landscape initiative aims to protect a biodiversity hotspot shared by India and Nepal that was rapidly degrading. On Nepal’s side alone, more than 7.5 million people and a plethora of wildlife – tigers, rhinos, elephants, black bucks, buffaloes, crocodiles, and birds – depend on the vast Terai Arc Landscape. The World Restoration Flagships are chosen as the best examples of ongoing, large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration.

“For too long, economic development came at the expense of the environment. Yet today we see global efforts to usher in a comeback for nature,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a UNEP press release. “These initiatives show how we can make peace with nature, put local communities at the heart of restoration efforts and still create new jobs. As we continue to face a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, now is the time we must double down and accelerate restoration initiatives.”

“The Terai Arc Landscape initiative does not protect nature by pulling people out of it, but by bringing people and nature closer together. After decades of uncontrolled exploitation and degradation, resources are now urgently needed to rebuild that connection and restore vital ecosystems. This is key to tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, and rampant pollution,” Inger Andersen states on the UNEP website.

With its recognition as a World Restoration Flagship, the Terai Arc Landscape will now be eligible for technical and financial UN support towards plans to restore an area of almost 350,000 hectares in India and Nepal, or 70 times the size of Nepal’s capital. Landscape approaches recognize the interconnections between people and nature and address environmental challenges across sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and economy. Millions of people depend on the Terai Arc Landscape, stretching across 5.10 million hectares and shared by India and Nepal. The Terai Arc Landscape Initiative has focused on restoring the forests of critical corridors of the Terai Arc Landscape and collaborates with local communities working as citizen scientists, community based anti-poaching units, forest guards and social mobilizers. In the past decades, the Terai Arc Landscape’s wildlife became isolated in forest patches in protected areas due to human-led forest degradation outside them. The focus of restoration efforts in the Terai Arc Landscape was thus on corridors that connect forested patches, through planting native species and protecting natural forest regeneration.

Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. With the World Restoration Flagships, the UN is honouring the best examples of large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration in any country or region, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade.

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