Terai Arc Landscape, critical habitats for tigers, gets UN World Restoration Flagship
New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) on Tuesday named seven initiatives, including the Terai Arc Landscape, shared by India and Nepal and one of the world's most critical habitats for tigers, as UN World Restoration Flagships.
These initiatives -- from Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia -- 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 UN 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.
Over seven million people depend on the Terai Arc Landscape, stretching across 5.10 million hectares. It is also one of the world’s most critical habitats for tigers whose numbers have sharply declined, along with those of other species such as rhinos and elephants, due to poaching, habitat loss, degradation, and human-wildlife conflict.
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.
The restoration of 66,800 hectares of Nepal’s forests, as well as other measures, has improved the livelihoods of about 500,000 households in Nepal. It also supported the tiger population in the landscape shared by India and Nepal, increased today to 1,174, more than doubling what had been its lowest number when the programme launched in 2001.
Development is expected to continue as almost 350,000 hectares will be restored by 2030.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Nepal is the primary partner in this initiative, supporting the Nepalese government.
Each of the seven World Restoration Flagships is being announced in video messages shared on UN social media channels by a UN or UNEP Goodwill Ambassador or Advocate, including actors Dia Mirza, Jason Momoa, and Edward Norton, chef Leyla Fathallah, and super-model and best-selling author Gisele Bündchen.
The other World Restoration Flagships are the Mediterranean basin, world’s second largest biodiversity hotspot; the 3,180 km long Indus river that has served as the vibrant core of the social, cultural, and economic life of what is today called Pakistan for well over 5,000 years; the Accion Andina social movement led by Peruvian conservation non-profit organisation, ECOAN (Asociacion Ecosistemas Andinos); the Sri Lanka Mangrove Regeneration Initiative; the Regreening Africa initiative; and the Forest Garden Program, launched in 2015, includes multiple Forest Garden projects in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, and Tanzania.
The winning initiatives are 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 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.
"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.
"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 World Restoration Flagships are chosen as the best examples of ongoing, large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration by the Task Forces for Science and Best Practices of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and approved by its Executive Board.
Selection follows a thorough review process with over 60 indicators and criteria, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade.