2016 Annual Conference

Coherence in policies and actions for healthy ecosystems

Day 2: Conference Highlights

Day Two of the 2016 Annual Conference on Securing the Forests, Land and Soils for All - Coherence in Policies and Actions for Healthy Ecosystems covered the following sessions:

  • Land and Soils' Health and Restoration
  • Water to Connect Land, Soil and Forests Resources
  • Legal, Policy and Financial Frameworks for Productive Forests, Land and Soils

Highlights from the sessions

Issues/challenges facing us:

  • Several million tons of soil lost every year both due to natural processes and policy distortions in land, water, energy and agriculture; soil salinity due to subsidies on diesel and fertilisers.
  • In India, we feed 17% of world population, with just 2.3% land resources and 4% fresh water.
  • Increased population means increased farmland, but 32% of total ground area already degraded.
  • More than 83% farmers are in small and marginal category.
  • Hardly any mechanisation in agriculture; only tractors that are bad for top soil.
  • You may do all this work for forests, soil and water, but what about population? Why is it not being addressed?
  • We have ended up replacing colonialism with the MNC rule.


  1. Emergent norms or principles:
    • Why is soil only the farmer's responsibility and not ours?
    • Money spent on agriculture should be seen as a form of investment.
    • We have science and technology, but we need to take into account indigenous knowledge as well.
    • Mainstream principles of ecology in technological applications in agriculture.
    • Firewall natural resources while on path of development.
    • Legacy aspect - commitment to future children.
    • Life means more than GDP.
    • Environment problem is a political struggle, not a technical one.
  2. Recognising the importance of natural resources:
    • Soil, food and human health closely interlinked.
    • Importance of top soil as 99% calories come from it; source of 1/4th of global biodiversity;source of carbon sequestration and holds 10 times as much water as held underground in reservoirs.
    • India should move from Green Revolution to Ever Green Revolution.
    • Water should be seen a leveller between land, soil and forests.

  3. Policy and regulation:
    • Integrated land policy needed throughout India - agriculture currently stuck between central and state lists.
    • Building coherence framework in water policies is required.
    • Reconsider what needs to grow where - institutionalise land policy based on geo climatic conditions.
    • Modernise land records; legitimise land-leasing.
    • Important to link environment and CC with business.
    • Enable FDI in agriculture sector.
    • Subsidise organic fertilisers if we are to save our soils and reduce subsidies for diesel pumps and chemical fertilisers.
    • Subsidise innovative farming practices like cover cropping that are climate friendly.
    • Number of women farmers increasing - undertake skill development of women and make machines such as pumps and tractors woman friendly.
    • Change water regulations - exploiting ground water disturbs water table.
    • Sikkim model - policy convergence in all sectors, through inclusivity of environment, social, economic and educational necessities.
    • Soil has to be dealt with at the "landscape level". This is compromised, as Common Property Resources are badly managed due to fragmentation of ownership.
  4. Communication and awareness:
    • Facilitate action and listen to community and learn.
    • Participatory planning - get the data (both technical and indigenous knowledge from the people) and perceptions based on experience of the community and merge.
    • Best contraceptive - education and livelihood for women in India.
    • Empower local groups to take decisions for their own land-use.
  5. Knowledge innovations:
    • Explore native biodiversity of crops in India.
    • Need to develop a natural resource management coherence framework.
    • Find practical methods to manage straw to avoid pollution; role of bio-char in sequestering carbon.
    • Opportunities for research and innovation for soil situation in India?
    • GIS is not just a scientific tool, but a conservation tool as well.
    • Don't mystify science, but integrate into planning.
    • Education for environment.
  6. Justice and environment:
    • Pay attention to socio-economic conditions, for example, how SC and ST land holding patterns are different.
    • Planning and strategising is for giving options, not directions - inclusive approach crucial.
    • Use of waste water for non-potable use to be explored, e.g construction
    • Law for women to own land to be enforced.
    • Securing Forest Land Soil Security "of" all, not just "for" all.
    • Legislation should be in consultation with people, only then can it be implemented.
    • Change land-holding patterns, taking account of people's rights in Schedule 5 areas.
    • Panchayati Raj gives rights to the communities for natural resources in their area.
    • Take account of Tribal ownership of land under the provisions of the Forests Rights Act.
    • Reform property rights so that it includes and not excludes by incorporating Gandhi's trusteeship approach.
    • Don't bypass Fundamental Rights over Directive Principles.
    • Performance standards needed for judiciary.
    • Public Defenders and local Bars required for Human Rights and Environmental Rights.
    • Sensitise magisterial courts towards environmental justice.
    • Fundamentals of Indian democracy, sound and effective - but there should be government by conversation.
    • Organise the poor and powerless- concentration of power with the social elite the problem.

Key concluding remarks:

In his Valedictory Address, Mr S Ramadorai, Chairman Indian National Association for CoR-India, called for the power of science to be utilised in building the health of nature. Commending the identification of our ancestors with nature, he believed that life has come full circle and this century is one of Biology as the archetypal science. Since biology is now a technology it has become a powerful tool to enable us to live more harmoniously with nature.

The Chairman, Mr Ramadorai, posed the challenge of feeding 10 million people of the future within the limits of growth, before the conference and was confident that bio technologies and continuous learning can provide the answers. He was confident in his conclusions that traditional knowledge systems and better science can regenerate and revitalise nature.

Mr Ranjit Barthakur, Secy General CoR-India, concluded the discussions by thanking all the speakers and the participants for helping identify areas where focus is needed for creating policies and coherence.He pointed out that good governance as a value driven process and global partnerships and localised support are needed for impact and ensuring the objectives. He spoke of the need for stakeholders such as communities and societies to take this policy congruence forward.