World Environment Day 2021: What is ecosytem restoration, and the various methods to achieve it

Every year, 5 June is celebrated as World Environment Day across the world to remind people of their duties and responsibilities towards the environment.

The World Environment Day had its genesis in 1972 when the first conference on the environment was held in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) served as a platform for multiple nations to discuss environmental issues and develop environmental awareness on a global scale.

But it was in 1974 when the United States recognised 5 June as World Environment Day, for the first time with the theme “Only One Earth”. And since then, 5 June is appreciated worldwide as an important day for the sake of the environment.

An American biologist and author Rachel Louise Carson encouraged the sense of environmentalism through her book, Silent Spring that reported the toxic effects of pesticides on the environment and ecological communities.

This led to an environmental agitation in the early 1960s.

The sense of environmentalism developed in independent India over several decades with the Chipko movement (1973), the Silent Valley, movement (1976), the Appiko movement (1983), Narmada Bachao Andolan (1985) and several other remarkable events leading to the present-day ban on plastics, animal poaching and deforestation.

However, environmentalism is much older in India. In fact, the Bishnois of Rajasthan are often considered the original environmentalists of India.

As per reports, 363 people from the Bishnoi community were killed while trying to protect trees in a village in Rajasthan. Their brave act is said to be the inspiration behind the Chipko Movement.

Ecosystem restoration: meaning and significance

This year, the theme for World Environment Day is “ecosystem restoration”.

The term “ecosystem restoration” refers to a series of activities that transform or restore a degraded (damaged) ecosystem to its natural form, or heal damages to an ecosystem and bring it back to a condition that will sustain for a longer period of time.

Examples of degraded ecosystems are polluted rivers, deforested landscape, overexploited forests, and non-fertile agricultural land. Degradation of ecosystems may be natural or anthropogenic. However, to a large extent damage to ecosystems is an anthropocentric concern.

In world history, World War I and World War II are the largest manifestations of degraded ecosystems. The conflicts between nations challenged the ecological health of the environment affecting soil, water, microbes, wildlife and humankind.

Can ecosystem restoration be achieved?

It is undeniable that scientific, technological and socio-economic developments by humankind have in some cases assisted ecosystem restoration efforts.

An appraisal of literature reveals that research and development is accelerating the restoration of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in the Brahmaputra Valley and the Indo-Gangetic plains in India.

Traditional ecosystem restoration methods consist of the fulfilment of stepwise target objectives like monitoring, treatment, remediation and mitigation of degraded ecosystems. Indigenous knowledge on ecosystem restoration practices forms the foundational basis of current advanced techniques of ecosystem restoration methods.

And nowadays, combinations of physical, chemical, biological and engineering methods can produce innovative technologies in the restoration of degraded ecosystems in India or anywhere in the world.

Altogether, ecosystem restoration may be recognised as a global concern that has to be addressed by massive awareness programmes involving policy-making bodies and collaborations at global platforms.

Environmentalism and ecocentric concerns fall under the purview of World Environment Day, and there are numerous ways to express them other than on the internet or social media. One can personally reinforce environmentalism at grass root levels by conducting outreach programmes, practising ecocentrism, and preaching environmental ethics.