Nairobi (Kenya), 22 February 2011 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that India, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world that is embracing the process of a transition to a Green Economy, will be for the first time ever the global host of World Environment Day 2011 (WED) on 5 June.
This year's theme 'Forests: Nature at Your Service' underscores the intrinsic link between quality of life and the health of forests and forest ecosystems. The WED theme also supports this year's UN International Year of Forests.
India is a country of 1.2 billion people who continue to put pressure on forests especially in densely populated areas where people are cultivating on marginal lands and where overgrazing is contributing to desertification.
But the Indian Government has also found solutions. While the socio-economic pressures on the country's forests are tremendous, India has instituted a tree-planting system to combat land-degradation and desertification, including windbreaks and shelterbelts to protect agricultural land.
In conserving its critical ecosystem, India has successfully introduced projects that track the health of the nation's plants, animals, water and other natural resources, including the Sunderbans - the largest deltaic mangrove forest in the world, and home to one of India's most iconic wildlife species: the tiger.
India has also launched a compensation afforestation programme under which any diversion of public forests for non-forestry purposes is compensated through afforestation in degraded or non-forested land. The funds received as compensation are used to improve forest management, protection of forests and of watershed areas. Moreover, a government authority has been created specifically to administer this programme.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Over close to the 40-year history of WED, India's cities and communities have been among the most active with a myriad of events undertaken across the country each and every year - so it is only fitting that this rapidly developing economy is the host in 2011."
"India is famous for its culture, arts, movies and world-beating Information Technology industries. Increasingly it is at the forefront of some of the 'green shoots' of a Green Economy that are emerging across the globe," he said.
"From its manufacturing of solar and wind turbines to its Rural Employment Guarantee Act which underwrites paid work for millions of households via investments in areas ranging from water conservation to sustainable land management, foundations are being laid towards a fundamental and far reaching new development path," added Mr. Steiner.
This is underlined by India's introduction of the Clean Energy Fund into its national budget which provides subsidies for green technology and has been the basis for a National Action Plan on Climate Change which sets specific targets on issues such as energy efficiency and sustaining the Himalayan eco-system.
India is currently planning one of the largest green energy projects in the world that will generate 20,000 megawatts of solar energy and 3,000 megawatts from wind farms on 50,000 acres in Karnataka in southwest India. The first phase of the US$50 billion project will start next year.
In its ground-breaking report on the Green Economy launched yesterday, UNEP cites India and the US$8 billion National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which underwrites at least 100 days of paid work, benefiting close to 60 million rural households.
"India's offer to host WED is another expression of India's strong commitment to work with the global community for sustainable development. This event will serve as the inauguration of a series of events leading up to the hosting of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It will also flag off the celebrations of the international decade for biodiversity. This will in addition signal India's commitment to the biomass economy so dependent on the sustainability of our natural resources," said Dr. T. Chatterjee, Secretary for Environment and Forests of the Government of India.
Two of India's most prominent cities - Mumbai and Delhi - will be the venue for this year's global celebration of the environment, with a myriad of activities over several days to inspire Indians and people around the world to take action for the environment.
The celebrations in India on 5 June are part of thousands of events taking place around the globe. WED 2011 will emphasize how individual actions can have an exponential impact, with a variety of activities ranging from school tree-planting drives to community clean-ups, car-free days, photo competitions on forests, bird-watching trips, city park clean-up initiatives, exhibits, green petitions, nationwide green campaigns and much more.
This year UNEP plans to make WED 2011 into a bigger celebration than ever before, building on the unprecedented success of WED 2010 - when people in more than 112 countries registered activities on the WED website and WED was thrust into the blogo-sphere with the first-ever WED- blogging competition.
The WED 2011 website will inspire, inform and involve people through unprecedented interactivity, offering daily tips, information and statistics on forest conservation, a platform where people around the world can register their activities, social networking campaigns and competitions to get people on every continent involved. See: www.unep.org\WED. Anyone can organize an event and register it on the WED website, and each of these individual actions when taken collectively will go a long way to securing important forests services for generations to come.
For more information please contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/ Head of Media, on Tel: +254 7623084 /Mobile , E-mail: email@example.com
Wambui Munge, UNEP Special Events on Tel: , Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
About World Environment Day (WED):
Last year's global host, Rwanda - a country of exceptional biodiversity that has made huge strides on environmental protection - led the celebrations with three days of keynote events. Thousands of activities were also organized worldwide from Hong Kong to Abidjan, with beach clean-ups, concerts, exhibits, film festivals, community events and much more.
2011 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of
Forests. And World Environment Day this year will reinforce this global concern
with the official tagline - Forests: Nature at Your Service.
Forests cover one third of the earth's land mass, performing vital functions and services around the world which make our planet alive with possibilities. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against climate change, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere while storing carbon dioxide.
Forests feed our rivers and are essential to supplying the water for nearly 50% of our largest cities. They create and maintain soil fertility and they help to regulate the often devastating impact of storms, floods and fires.
Splendid and inspiring, forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, and are home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
Forests also provide shelter, jobs, security and cultural relevance for forest-dependent populations. They are the green lungs of the earth, vital to the survival of people everywhere - all seven billion of us.
Forests embody so much of what is good and strong in our lives. Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to live and breathe.
Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate - every year 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed. That's equal to the size of Portugal.
Short-term investments for immediate gains (i.e. logging) compound these losses. People who depend on forests for their livelihoods are struggling to survive. Many precious species face extinction. Biodiversity is being obliterated. What's more, economists around the world have proven that by not integrating the values of forests into their budgets, countries and businesses are paying a high price. One that ultimately impoverishes us all as harm to our forest life-support system continues each and every single day.
But this trend is not irreversible. It's not too late to transform life as we know it into a greener future where forests are at the heart of our sustainable development and green economies.
Conserving forests and expanding them need to be recognized as a business opportunity. When we add it up, an investment of US$30 billion fighting deforestation and degradation could provide a return of US$2.5 trillion in new products and services.
Furthermore, targeted investments in forestry could generate up to 10 million new jobs around the world. Already, many leaders are glimpsing the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets, but for transformation to happen, forests need to become a universal political priority.
The services forests provide are essential to every aspect of our quality of life and individual action can result in exponential impact, so do your part!
For more information on the International Year of Forests, visit: http://www.unep.org/forests/
Details about WED campaigns and special initiatives will be announced at www.unep.org\WED in the run-up to 5 June.