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Talking Point

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Talking Point

Talking Point

Talking Point

Sustainable Development Goal 15 ‘Life on Land’

Deepak Kumar

The writer is an IFS, Chief Conservator of Forests, JFM, UP (Nodal officer in UP for SDG 15)

In September 2015, United Nations General Assembly adopted a global agenda for Sustainable Development and set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to be achieved by 2030. Building on the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, the new Agenda emphasizes on a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. India is committed to achieve these 17 SDGs and the associated targets, which comprehensively covers all the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development. At the Central Government level, NITI Aayog has been assigned the role of overseeing the implementation of SDGs in the country. NITI Aayog regularly publishes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index, which comprehensively documents the progress made by India’s States and Union Territories towards achieving the 2030 SDG targets. The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) includes No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Action, etc. Out of the 17 Goals, Goal number 15 i.e. ‘Life on Land’ occupies an important position as it deals with the protection and conservation of our ecosystems.

SDG 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.

Nations world over are grappling with challenges of land degradation, desertification, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. The challenges get magnified in a state like Uttar Pradesh where population density is the highest in India, exerting pressure on land resources. The state is about 7.33 per cent of the total area of India, but is home to almost 16 per cent of the country's population. Thus in the context of land resources, there is a compelling need for planning and investing in its conservation, restoration and sustainable utilization.

Forests are a vital global resource as they serve as pollution sinks, natural habitats for biodiversity, and instruments for combating climate change. At the same time they are a vital local resource providing timber, clean air and water. According to the State of Forest Report 2019, Uttar Pradesh has a total of 9.20 per cent of the state's geographical area under forest and tree cover, as against 33 per cent mandated by the National Forest Policy 1988. However, on account of high population density and competing land uses, like agriculture, industry, housing, infrastructure, etc., the state can realistically target bringing 15 per cent of its geographical area under forest and tree cover by 2030.

Trees are the only source of oxygen and the only mechanism to clear carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For our very existence and in order to save the planet Earth, there is an urgent need to plant more trees and conserve existing forest. Given the scale of the environmental challenges today, researchers, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and the private sector all must work together. An integrated drive involving the participation of all the stakeholders of the society is needed. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, SDG vision 2030 is coordinated by Planning Department and each goal has been assigned a nodal department. Forest department is the nodal department for SDG Goal 15.

Targets set for Goal 15

Target 15.1: Ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular, forests, wetlands, mountains and dry lands, in line with obligations under international agreement;

Target 15.2: Promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally;

Target 15.3: Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world;

Target 15.4: By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development;

Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species;

Target 15.6: Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed;

Target 15.7: 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;

Target 15.8: Introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species;

Target 15.9: Integrate ecosystems and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts.

Uttar Pradesh is committed to protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems in the interest of sustainable growth and inclusive development. It envisions sustainable use of natural resources like cultivable land, forests and water bodies and also aims at reversing environmental degradation by restoring the degraded ecosystems thus ensuring their availability for future generations. The state is also committed to conserving its rich biodiversity, natural habitats and to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. For the benefits of conservation efforts to reach all sections of society, the state also envisages strengthening the capacities of the agents of change both at institutional as well as at grass-roots level.

Vision of UP’s SDG Goal 15

1. Prevention and control of degradation of the ecosystems by adopting effective protection measures;

2. Conservation, restoration, enrichment and proper management of the ecosystems;

3. Fostering partnership of local communities in sharing the benefits of the ecosystems;

4. Incorporating the concept of conservation values in national and local planning and establish inter-departmental coordination.

Achievements made till date

•The State Forest Policy was promulgated in the year 2017 which lays emphasis on large scale tree plantations to prevent degradation of ecosystem and loss of biodiversity;

• UP State Wetland Authority was established in the year 2018 for conservation, pollution reduction and sustainable water use in all the aquatic ecosystems. To spread awareness on this, Bird festival is organized every year on World Wetland Day (February 02) in the Wetlands identified in each district. Out of the total 1,25,905 wetlands identified in the state,  notification of 28,555 wetlands with an area of more than 2.25 hectares is in progress under the Wetland (Conservation and Development) Rules 2017;

• Under massive plantation drive, Forest Department, with the active participation of other government departments, undertook the remarkable work of planting 5.04 crore saplings in 2016-17, 6.54 crore saplings in 2017-18, 11.76 crore saplings in 2018-19 and 22.59 crore saplings in 2019-20. In these campaigns there was active participation of other government departments, NGOs, school children, defense personnel, media, villagers etc. Public Representatives also participated in these drives.

• Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) under the Biodiversity Act, 2002 have been constituted in all the nine agro-climatic zones of the state at the gram Panchayat level and People’s Biodiversity Registers are being prepared;

• To promote eco-tourism in the protected areas, Eco-tourism policy has been formulated;

• Intensive monitoring, smart patrolling, high tech surveillance system like MSTrIPES app, IR camera, thermal vision camera, UAV, etc. are being used to prevent poaching and smuggling of wildlife. UP Forest Department has received a letter of appreciation from INTERPOL for conviction of criminals;

• Due to effective protection methods and enforcement, number of tigers in UP has risen from 117 in 2014 to 173 in 2018.  In order to involve local communities and sensitize them towards Tiger conservation, month of December is celebrated as ‘Tiger Conservation’ month;

• Uttar Pradesh State is the first state in India to declare man-animal conflict as a ‘National Disaster’;

• Toll free helpline number ‘1926’ is available for redressal of problems related to forest department and ‘Van Mitr’ mobile app has been developed to educate the common mass on forestry matters;

• For promotion of wood based industries and agro-forestry activities in the state, Establishment and Regulation of Uttar Pradesh Sawmill (Seventh Amendment) Rules, 2018 was promulgated.  1218 provisional licenses for all categories of wood based industries were issued through a transparent online e-lottery system;

• For the convenience of the common man, facility of granting online permit/transit pass for tree felling / transit of timber has been introduced;

• For improving efficiency and transparency, Forest Department has been extensively using e-Governance and information technology (IT). Software like Plantation Monitoring System (PMS) and Nursery Management System (NMS) is being used to monitor the plantation progress and raising of seedlings.

UP creates Guinness world records

• The most trees planted in one day is 10,000,000 across the state of Uttar Pradesh on 31 July 2007;

• Largest distribution of saplings (1,053,108 nos.) across 10 locations in 8 hours on 7 November, 2015;

• Most trees planted (50,414,058 nos.) in 6,146 locations in 24 hours on 11 July, 2016;

• The largest distribution of saplings at Prayagraj, India on 09 August, 2019;

Strategy for Future:

Strategies for achieving Goal 15 include making plans / institutional arrangements, procurement of funds and convergence, getting support of knowledge partners, capacity development, use of latest technology etc. Highlights of strategies are as below:

• Massive plantation in forest as well as in non-forest areas to increase the present percentage of forest and tree cover from 9.20% to 15% of the geographical area by 2030;

• Encouraging the plantation of local species for the conservation and enrichment of biodiversity;

• Celebrating important national and international days related to environment, forests and wildlife by tree planting and awareness campaigns;

• Proposal is being prepared by the UP State Wetland Authority for selecting 02 districts in each agro-climatic zones and notification of 10 largest wetlands (greater than 2.25 ha) in each district;

• Identification and preservation of important ecological zones by declaring them as Conservation Reserve / Community Reserve. Steps are also being taken for the preservation of important areas / trees of mythological, historical, cultural or ecological significance by declaring them as heritage areas/Sacred Groves or heritage trees;

• Development of forest patches having high value trees to meet the demands of the industrial units;

• Financial arrangements for fence, tree guard etc. so that plantations are effectively protected;

• In order to address the problem of depleting underground water table, special emphasis on increasing the tree cover and creating water harvesting structures in the identified 36 water stressed districts. To restore the saline-alkaline soil, plantation and water conservation works will be carried out;

• Developing new models of forestry like Miyawaki technique;

• Promotion of forestry practices like ANR (assisted natural regeneration) and silvicultural operation in the degraded forest areas;

• To reduce pressure on fuel wood, encouraging LPG distribution and biogas for the poor people living within 5 km of the forest border;

• Restoring the wetlands located near the river coast by promoting water harvesting in the area;

• Conservation and management of natural habitats in the protected areas (wildlife areas), restoration of fragmented patches of forest and conservation of important corridors in order to facilitate the movement of wildlife;

• Establishment of Centers of Excellence to give an impetus to the conservation, breeding and management of biodiversity heritage sites identified for in-situ / ex-situ conservation of important flora and fauna;          

• Encouraging participatory forest management by strengthening the local bodies and improving the socio-economic conditions of the people residing in the villages adjacent to the forest areas;

• Establishing effective control on organized forest and wildlife crimes, creating a 'Special Task Force’ and continuous monitoring of all the wildlife sanctuaries. Strengthening of Quick Response Teams to address the problem of man-animal conflicts;

• Prevention and control of the spread of invasive alien species in terrestrial as well as wetland ecosystem e.g. Lantana, Parthinium, Water Hyacinth etc. Biological control methods to be implemented by planting suitable predator species;

• For the continuous assessment of biodiversity, formulation of biodiversity index for important cities and the districts in cities;

• Promotion of eco-tourism by the developing eco-tourism hot-spots and better home stay facility in areas with natural beauty and wildlife abundance;

• Development of e-green market portal for production forestry;

• To implement and issue effective instructions for using at least half of the CSR funds of industrial houses creating an adverse impact on the environment and motivating them to spend their CER (Corporate Environmental Responsibility) fund for the restoration of ecologically sensitive areas. Assessing the environmental damage caused by industrial units and using the concept of ‘Polluters to Pay’;

• Obtaining financial resources from various industrial groups for carbon foot print offsetting and raising additional financial resources through RED, RED Plus and ARCDM for better forest management;

• To motivate the local community towards better management of biological resources and proper value addition so that they reap the benefits of biodiversity and eco system services;

• Implementation of green accounting in budgeting and evaluation of all the state schemes;

• Providing specialized training on nursery raising and growing agro forestry species under the Green Skill Development Program through Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) and disseminating useful and practical information regarding nursery establishment, productivity etc. through Doordarshan etc.

• To establish effective enforcement and using intelligence networking based to control incidences of poaching and smuggling. Using smart patrolling techniques, MsTRIPES app, etc. in forest and wildlife areas. To organize skill development programs and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local people in areas vulnerable to poaching and smuggling. To undertake eco-development programs and sharing the benefits derived from the conservation of bio resources among the local communities;

• Establishment of an online portal for nursery standardization and sale of raised saplings.  Increase in productivity by raising high quality saplings using modern nursery management techniques in departmental and private nurseries.

Milestones and indicators set by our State

In order to achieve the targets set in the Goal, following indicators and milestones have been earmarked by the state.

Sl no.


Current Status






Forest Cover and Tree Cover (%)






Wetland Management area (ha.)






Restoration of Land after Mining (ha.)






Number of Apex Species in different Ecosystems
























Number of Conservation Reserves Created






Number of Community Reserves Created






Total Plantations done under different schemes (No. in crores)






Area of Reserved Forest notified under Sec.20 (Lakh ha.)






Area taken for ANR and Silvicultural operations (ha.)

As Per Budget availability





 Capacity building of SHG's related to certificate course in plantation, mechanization in forestry etc. (No.)






Skill development of people under green skill development programme.(No.)






Number of biodiversity management committees benefitted from Acess to Benefit sharing(ABS)






Number of SHG's involved in reduction and alternative use of  invasive alien species.






Determining ‘Biodiversity index’ for Districts and important cities (as per norms)







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