Image by: Arun Beeman/UNEP


UN recognizes Indian government initiative to restore Ganges River with special award

Montreal, 13 December 2022 The United Nations has recognized an initiative to rejuvenate India’s sacred Ganges River as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.

The UN designated the push, which has so far restored about 15 per cent of the river’s length, as one of its inaugural World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives, which are eligible to receive UN support, funding or technical expertise, showcase how environmental advocates are mending damaged ecosystems across the planet. Human activity has significantly altered three-quarters of the Earth’s land and two-thirds of its marine environment, pushing 1 million species towards extinction.

The announcement came as leaders gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference, where governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade. Talks are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.

The Ganges basin is home to 520 million people along with more than 25,000 species of plants and animals. The region is responsible for 40 per cent of India’s gross domestic product and its forests are also an important store of carbon, which if released would contribute to the climate crisis.

Pollution, land degradation and lack of public awareness have put unprecedented pressure on the Ganges’ ecosystems. To preserve and restore natural spaces, the Indian government has launched an ambitious effort known as Namami Gange. It aims to restore people’s connection to a river considered sacred, while reducing pollution and reversing deforestation. Already, 1,500 km of the 2,525 km river have been rejuvenated and 30,000 ha of forests have been restored. The work is expected to help sequester 15 million tons of carbon by 2030.

The effort and other flagship initiatives were selected under the banner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said:  “The Namami Ganga is an ambitious effort to rejuvenate the Ganga, a lifeline for millions of people in India. At a time when it is critical that we transform our exploitative relationship with nature, the positive impacts of this restoration cannot be underestimated.”

Director General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, G. Asok Kumar, said: “The recognition of Namami Gange as one of the top-10 ecosystem restoration initiatives in the world bears testimony to the concerted efforts being made by the National Mission for Clean Ganga, Government of India for the restoration of the riverine ecosystem. I hope that our endeavours provide a roadmap for other similar interventions across the globe."

Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, said: “FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.”

Countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration. Progress of all 10 World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform for keeping track of global restoration efforts.


About the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 

The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. 

About Namami Gange

This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by the National Mission for Clean Ganga under the Government of India, and supported by the World Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the German Development Agency.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


For more information, please contact:

Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme

For media interviews with officials from India please reach out to Sharmi Palit.




Type of article
Press Release