Ministry of Environment & Forests
World Environment Day - 5 June 2008
   
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SPEECH OF Smt. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL
HONOURABLE PRESIDENT OF INDIA
ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY &
30th ANNIVERSARY OF NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this function organised on the occasion of the World Environment Day. I would like to congratulate Sant Gadge Baba Amrawati University of Maharashtra whose award is being received by its Vice Chancellor - Dr. Kamal Singh, Shri Jagadish Babla of Uttaranchal and Dr. Amrita Patel of Gujarat, who have been conferred the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Purashkar for their contribution in protecting and conserving our environment. My good wishes also to Ms. Shefalika, the Young Environmentalist of the year.

The World Environment Day is celebrated each year with a view to stimulate global awareness and to encourage people to become active participants in the sustainable and equitable development process so that all nations and peoples enjoy a more prosperous future. It was on this historic day in 1972, that the United Nations Conference on Human Environment began in Stockholm. Smt. Indira Gandhi, our then Prime Minister, was the only Head of Government who traveled to Stockholm to participate in the 1972 Conference. By stating that poverty was the worst polluter, she highlighted the link between environmental conservation and elimination of poverty. This launched a global debate on the need to look at poverty eradication, developmental imperatives and environmental concerns as interdependent objectives.

Twenty years later, at the 1992 Rio Conference and, thirty years later at the 2002 Johannesburg Summit, the leaders of the world emphasized that sustainable development as a development paradigm should address the economic, social and environmental needs of society, and recognized that for the developing countries eradicating poverty would be an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Therefore, today, is an appropriate occasion to re-commit ourselves to ensuring that the sustainable development process provides to all our people - health, nutrition, education and housing so that all can live a life of dignity in a clean and healthy atmosphere. Indeed, this should be a collective global endeavour for the international community that established a global partnership to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, including by providing financial and technological support to developing countries.

The 21st century is confronted with the global challenge of climate change. Though all countries contribute, to some extent, to the generation of greenhouse gases, the contribution of developing countries like India is vastly different and far lower than that of developed countries. The developed countries have to their account the historical emissions of GHGs since the Industrial Revolution. However, climate change is likely to have wide ranging economic and social impacts in every country. In fact, the harshest impact is being felt by the poorest in the world who have had hardly any share in causing this problem. Global discussions on climate change must, therefore, bear in mind that the process of burden sharing should be fair and in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities.

As a developing country, even though India has no international obligation to reduce emissions, it as a responsible member of the world community, is taking action domestically to contribute to the global efforts. Climate change is receiving high level and focused attention in India. Prime Minister's Climate Change Council is comprehensively examining India's response to this global challenge. Our National Environment Policy adopted in 2006 promotes the adoption of cleaner technology and bio-friendly disposal of waste. We have promoted measures like energy efficiency, and encouraged the use of new and renewable sources of energy. We have emerged as the country with the 4th largest wind power capacity in the world. Other sources of renewable energy like solar energy are also being tapped. Under the Green India Programme, we propose to launch a massive afforestation project covering six million hectares of degraded forest land, which is probably the world's largest. We are encouraging reusing and recycling to reduce waste. Water is a precious life giving resource and we must use every drop of water efficiently. Rain water harvesting is important in maximizing the utilization of water.

The slogan adopted for this year's World Environment Day is the importance of low carbon economy. As we look at this issue today, there can be no doubt that new and advanced technologies will play a key role in achieving this objective. Developing countries naturally expect a robust arrangement for the transfer of technology and financial support from developed countries. Governments as well as academic institutions and corporate bodies must step up research work and also develop joint research programmes across nations for meeting the challenge of sustainable development including climate change across the globe. The global community must join hands to create scientific capacity to solve these problems. The carbon footprint of human activity can be reduced when each individual, each household, each industrial unit - all undertake their work and activities as energy efficiently as possible and reduce wastage.

On this Day, we should focus our thoughts on keeping the planet safe from degradation. Efforts to spread awareness must be stepped up. However, Government alone cannot do this. As I just mentioned, each one of us will have to contribute to this task of conservation of nature and environment. This should become a people's movement, in which local bodies, civil society and NGOs should participate.

We should address the common task of preserving the Earth and all its life forms. India is among the 12 countries immensely rich in bio-diversity. India has two out of the 18 biodiversity hot-spots of the world which are the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas. I am aware that the Ministry has several programmes and policies to preserve the ecosystems through the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and biosphere reserves. These efforts must continue. At the same time, steps have been taken for welfare of the forest people particularly the tribal people, who have lived in and near the forests for centuries and who are also the repositories of traditional knowledge on conservation and sustainable living.

Conservation and protection of the environment as also love for nature have always been a part and parcel of the Indian ethos and culture. Our scriptures and epics teach us respect for nature which is also a precondition for peace and harmony in life. The Atharva Veda says:

O pure Earth,
May that we utilize your soil well,
Without causing you injury or harm or
Disturbing any vital element in you.

These words should inspire everybody to prudently use the resources of our planet.

I am informed that today we are also celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the National Museum for Natural History, an important institution to spread awareness about the evolution of the Universe and progression of life on it. Today, the Museum and its regional centers are recognized as excellent centers for non-formal environmental education. It has played a strong and active role in creating awareness, through a number of educational programmes, exhibitions, nature camps in which many children have participated. These activities will help in developing a sense of responsibility which is so essential in our every day life. Children as the citizens of tomorrow have a big stake in the future of our society, our country, the world and indeed the planet. They must be involved in activities to preserve and conserve our environment. I am happy to see young students in the function today.

While concluding, I take this opportunity to once again convey my best wishes to the awardees of the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Purashkar and also wish them success in their future endeavours.

Jai Hind.