19 February 2019, New Delhi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO Country Office for India organized a stakeholder consultation to deliberate on way forward for ‘The Environment and Health Initiative.’ The initiative proposed by UNEP and WHO aims to build capacity, facilitate knowledge exchange and evidence generation on environment and health issues. The working group constituted under the initiative will work towards convergence and mainstreaming of environmental health dimensions in India’s socio-economic development agenda.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) endorsed this initiative as an important step to address health and environment linkages as integral to sustainable development.
Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India, in his opening remarks lauded the efforts of the Government of India to provide access to LPG to over 80 million poor families across the country through Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. He stated that the government’s commitment to expanding India’s renewable energy target from 175 GW to 450 GW is exemplary.
Referring to health co-benefits from reducing carbon emissions, Dr Bekedam shared that by providing appropriate bicycle lanes, India can reduce vehicular pollution and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Speaking at the event, Mr CK Mishra, Secretary MoEF&CC emphasized the importance of environment as a key determinant for human health and the need for development planning to be made sustainable to safeguard the environment.
Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary, MoHFW reiterated that massive efforts undertaken by the government and sustained public awareness campaigns led to the success of Swachh Bharat Mission. She said similar efforts are needed to reduce air pollution and adapt to climate change impacts.
Ms Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP also said, “The environment, human health, and prosperity go hand in hand. I commend the Government of India for strengthening efforts to protect the environment, the very foundation of economic and social development.”
This consultation provided a platform for knowledge exchange and sharing experiences about interventions to improve environmental conditions that have positive impact on public health. As part of the collaboration, WHO and UNEP will prepare various training modules and advocacy materials on environmental health and air pollution aiming at social and behavior change.
The other key dignitaries present at the event were: Mr. Atul Bagai, Representative, UNEP India; Mr. Mayur Maheshwari, Director, PMO; Dr Satish Garkoti, Scientist G, MoEF&CC; and Dr Aakash Shrivastava, Joint Director and Head Centre for Environmental and Occupational Health, NCDC, MoHFW; and representatives from bilateral, multilateral and national agencies.
Story originally posted on WHO