Emphasising the importance of land as a resource and the need to protect and harness its resources in a manner that does not adversely affect its health, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has underlined the critical need to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030. Inaugurating the four-day Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) here today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan urged the delegates to transform the Workshop into a milestone in combating land degradation, desertification and drought. “In India, total land area under land degradation is 96.40 million hectares, which is 29.32% of the country’s total geographical area”, Dr. Harsh Vardhan stated. Pointing out that drylands lose 23 hectares per minute to drought and desertification, the Minister said that this gets translated into a loss of 20 million tonnes of potential foodgrain production. Underlining India’s strong commitment to the Convention, he pointed out that India has around 70% of its total geographical area under drylands and about 30% of its land affected by land degradation and about 25% of the land affected by desertification.In the global context, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that nearly 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and 27, 000 bio-species are lost every year. He stated that nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population lives in dry areas. “8 out of 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in drylands”, he added.Lauding some of the success stories of other nations, the Minister mentioned Sahel Integrated Lowland ecosystem Management (SILeM) in Burkina Faso, besides the Capacity and Management Support for combating land degradation in dryland ecosystems in China. In the Indian context, he highlighted the Sustainable land, water and biodiversity conservation and management for improved livelihoods in Uttarakhand watershed sector, as well as Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Security through Innovations in Land and ecosystem management in India. Dr. Harsh Vardhan added that India has documented its Sustainable Land and Ecosystem Management practices in the form of SLEM book, published in 2014.