UN Under-Secretary-General and
Executive Director, UNEP
This year marks a first for the long standing relationship between
India and the United Nations. For the first time ever India will
host World Environment Day (WED). With a population of
1.2 billion people, a rapidly growing economy and a diverse
cultural past, present and future there is enormous potential
for India to catalyze and to champion sustainable development
nationally and internationally.
This year's WED theme is 'Forests: Nature at Your Service'. It
speaks to the intrinsic connection between livelihoods and human
well being and the health of forests and forest ecosystems.
India has shown leadership by, for example, instituting a treeplanting
system to combat land-degradation and desertification,
including windbreaks and shelterbelts to protect agricultural
land. The recently launched Mission for Green India, as part of
National Action Plan on Climate Change, aims at qualitaitive as
well as quantitative improvement in forest cover over 10 million
hectares, with an estimated outlay of about US$10 billion over the
next 10 years.
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:
Meanwhile the country is increasingly at the forefront of some of
the 'green shoots' of a Green Economy that are emerging across
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 in India towards a fundamental and far reaching new
UNEP's recent report - A Transition to a Green Economy:
Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication
underlines that such a transition not only possible but relevant to
developing nations as it is to developed ones.
WED 2011 comes in advance of the UN Conference on
Sustainable Development 2012 or Rio+20. Its twin themes are the
Green Economy within the context of sustainable development
and poverty eradication and an institutional framework for
Rio+20 comes against a backdrop of rapidly diminishing natural
resources and accelerating environmental change - from the loss
of coral reefs and forests to the rising scarcity of productive land;
from the urgent need to feed and fuel economies and the likely
impacts of unchecked climate change.
India is among a range of nations spotlighting different choices
that represent an opportunity to fulfil the promise of the 1992 Rio
Earth Summit in order to deliver development that meets the needs
of seven billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050.
One that delivers growth, greater equity and employment
opportunities: one that keeps humanity's footprint within
planetary boundaries in order to ensure that Nature can remain at
our service for current and future generations.
Minister for Environment and Forests, India
"We need a strong ethic of conservation and in this role, World
Environment Day is a powerful catalyst and voice. There must
be limits on how and where we encroach on the natural world
for without them habitats will be paved over, rivers ruined,
corals bleached and forests unwittingly plowed for agriculture."