Ecosystems provide a number of goods and serve a number of functions. These are habitat (shelter), food, water, air; providing ecological services—clean air, water, waste absorption—to the organisms living in it; regulating climate, flood control, coastline stabilization, carbon appropriation, waste treatment, biodiversity conservation, soil generation, disease regulation, and the provision of aesthetic and cultural benefits.
Each ecosystem has a unique set of services and goods that it provides (for example, grasslands are usually the fodder source for browsers and grazers, while wetlands recharge aquifers). These ecosystem services can be available only when the integrity and overall wellbeing of the ecosystem is maintained. For example, the moment we start looking at forests as timber and start cutting down trees for their economic value, we would be deprived of several other functions of the forests, like their recharging of the water table, appropriation of carbon-di-oxide, prevention of top soil loss.
The ecosystems act as source and also as the sink of human activities. This means that human beings derive resources—from food, fiber, timber to the various raw material for the industries, from ecosystems; and that all the products and byproducts of human activities—from domestic to industrial, finally go back to the ecosystems, which could be the rivers, the oceans or even the forests.
Though natural ecosystems have self-regulating mechanisms that maintain their balance. To meet our demands of development, humans have cleared forests, polluted freshwater sources, degraded lands, mountains and oceans through over exploitation and many more. These activities have created stresses beyond the tolerance limits of these systems.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to end poverty, conserve biodiversity, combat climate change and improve livelihoods for everyone, everywhere. These objectives, encapsulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are unlikely to be met unless ecosystem degradation is stopped and ecosystem restoration is undertaken at the immense scale of hundreds of millions of hectares globally.
On 1 March 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021–2030 to be the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration with the aim to
Prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.
All initiatives within the UN Decade are visualized to have a dual focus on protecting as well as restoring ecosystems. The vision is to engage and involve everyone to ensure the health and wellbeing of all life on Earth and that of future generations. The current situation of biodiversity loss, changing climate and other environmental issues urgently requires that relationship between humans and nature gets restored, healthy ecosystems grow, which further helps in stopping ecosystem loss, fragmentation and degradation.
To achieve this vision, three main goals have been set as part of the decade:
Ecosystem restoration refers to taking action for repairing ecosystems that have been degraded as well as protecting the ones that are healthy. Education and communication plays critical role in reaching out to various target groups to inform and involve them in taking appropriate action for ecosystem preservation.
World Environment Day 2021 marks the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. CEE announces a six-month Information-Education-Communication and action campaign as “ACT to RESTORE’. Each month of the campaign is devoted to ecosystem theme. Various national as well as international days would also be targeted along-with cross-linkages with other environmental issues. This campaign will conclude with an event on World Handprint Day (27 November, 2021). Due to the COVID-19 restrictions we intend to engage with the target groups and organize events virtually.
We invite institutions, NGOs, schools, colleges, individuals and anyone interested to be part of the campaign to join us to turn the tide to prevent, halt and reverse degradation of ecosystems.
Established as a Centre of Excellence of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India.