The SDG Roundtable: SDG 15 – Life on Land

The SDG Roundtable: SDG 15 – Life on Land


Protecting and preserving life on land is important for the  survival of human life. Human life depends on the earth’s landmass as much as it depends on the ocean. One reason among others, is that 30% of the earth’s forest cover provides vital habitats for many species and provides access to food, clean water and air. In addition to these privileges, forest cover is crucial to combat climate change as well. However, every year, 13 million hectares of forests are lost, while the persistent degradation of dry lands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares, which has created a barrier for sustenance and livelihoods. In order to address this issue, the United Nations (UN) has declared the fifteenth sustainable Development Goal (SDG) as commitment to ensure the protection and preservation of biodiversity on land.

Life on land as a SDG, pays special focus in managing forests in a sustainable manner, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt the loss of biodiversity due to prevailing issues like deforestation, land degradation and loss of natural habitats and species. The United Nations has initiated twelve targets under this SDG and has since employed necessary actions in order to achieve them. These targets are focused on conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems. Therefore, the identification of protecting life on land as an SDG is a salient implementation to promote sustainable use of ecosystem and biodiversity to ensure the survival of the human race and other terrestrial species.

International status quo

The most significant initiative is the launch of ‘Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ (2021-2030) by the UN which focuses on many worldwide projects that adopt ecosystem restoration methods in order to achieve this SGD. With this initiative, international attention has risen to expand their approaches in realizing this Goal. Moreover, the current global pandemic has emphasized the urgency to address threats to both the ecosystem and wildlife. With this, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) established new policies to help nations manage COVID-19 waste, deliver transformational change for nature and people and to modernize global environmental governance. Furthermore, there are other actions that have been taken on both an international and state level in order to initiate the fifteenth SDG as well. Among them, restoring degraded dry lands across vast swathes of Africa and the agreement of the UN to restore 100 million hectares in the Sahara and Sahel are some of these recent restoration projects. Moreover, the Lion’s Share fund is an initiative which aims at transforming the lives of animals across the world. Additionally, the Forest and Farming Facility as a partnership has been funded in Vietnam to promote farming activities without resorting to deforestation. These are some of the recent projects that fall under the execution of the fifteenth SDG.

Sri Lanka’s Progress

Sri Lanka inherits 29.7% forest cover that accommodates numerous species and a high level of biodiversity. However, Sri Lanka is ranked in one of the 35 biodiversity hotspots due to deforestation and land degradation. This has brought about the urgency to protect ecosystems in Sri Lanka. A recent example of where Sri Lanka has shown progress in achieving the goals laid out by this SDG, was the forest restoration efforts in Wilpattu forest which has been severely subjected to deforestation in the past. Moreover, the Sri Lankan government has adjusted and improved the actions under the existing policies like National Forest policy, Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and National Heritage Wilderness to achieve the targets of the ‘life on land’ SDG. In addition to these, the National Biodiversity Strategic action (2016-2022) has been implemented to conserve the biodiversity of Sri Lanka. Management of Invasive Alien Species has been taken into action to address the targets of this SDG as well. Furthermore, the wildlife department has declared 69 forests as protected forests to prevent deforestation. Apart from these actions, the Wildlife Department has introduced new programs to halt the ever-present human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka to protect these animals. The need to employ protection for wetlands in Sri Lanka has also gained attention as a dimension of achieving the targets of this SDG. These actions have contributed to a certain extent for the progress of achieving this SDG.


Life on land as a SDG aims for sustaining and flourishing life for our own survival. Although there are gaps and challenges such as the increase of world population and consumption of natural resources in achieving the targets of this SDG, the initiative of life on land is a great investment to protect biodiversity and ecosystems as they play a huge part for our own survival. With consistent and more advanced approaches the progress of achieving this target can be sustained and developed.

– Rtr. Thilini Chandrarathne

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