World Environment Day: Time To Act For A Green And Secure Future!
Time is running out. More delays mean further aggravating the challenge to conserve the environment for a green and secure future for humanity. In the recent decades, we have seen a sudden spurt in acts, which are not conducive to the health of the environment. An unhealthy environment is fraught with multiple risks for living creatures including humans. Since humanity is blessed with only one earth, we have to make concerted efforts to save Mother Earth. It is so befitting that the campaign slogan for the World Environment Day-2022 is ‘Only One Earth’ with focus on ‘Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature.’
Respecting the environment ensures respite from disasters while playing with the environment means inviting a whole gamut of foreseen and unforeseen woes. Over the decades we have seen the colossal damage being caused by natural disasters worldwide. According to The Global Assessment Report (GAR 2022), released recently by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, between 350 and 500 medium to large scale disasters took place every year over the past two decades. The number of disasters is projected to reach 560 a year or 1.5 disasters a day by 2030. Disasters disproportionately impact our gross domestic product (GDP) every year as well.
The Paris Agreement, a landmark in the multilateral climate change process, aims to limit global warming to well below two, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century. Thanks to the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji and the wholesome approach adopted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), India’s non-fossil energy capacity will reach 500 GW by 2030. We have the target to reduce the carbon intensity of our economy by 45 per cent by 2030 over 2005 levels, and by 2070 will achieve the target of net zero emissions.
Similarly, afforestation has got a big boost since the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority came into existence. Until now, 28 schemes amounting to Rs 1329.78 crore have been approved from the National Fund. It is no mean achievement that the average survival percentage of compensatory afforestation has been reported to be 73 per cent. India is committed to achieve land degradation neutrality and restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. Leveraging technology, encouraging greater involvement and leadership of women, utilizing opportunities provided by social media and mobile technologies and bringing about greater cohesion in our response to upgradation of the environment is of paramount importance.
As per the Forest Survey of India Report-2021, there has been an increase of 2,261 sq km in the total forest and tree cover of the country in the last two years. Afforestation means less erosion of soil by wind or water. According to the United Nations, one acre of soil is lost on the planet every second, which means that we will have 40 per cent less food to eat by 2045. So we have to save the soil. It is so gladdening that Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva ji, founder of Isha Foundation, has embarked on a historic journey of 27 nations as a part of his ‘Save Soil’ campaign. Since ours is an agriculture dominated economy, we should promote organic farming, which will not only enhance food production but will also enhance farmers’ income, mitigate climate change, prevent biodiversity loss and large scale migration.
Conserving the environment is a multi-sectoral and stakeholder task. Our school and college students are great ambassadors not only to create awareness about the environment, climate change but they will also play a seminal role in refurbishing the ecosystem to make the environment more resilient to withstand the onslaught of climate changes. The National Green Corps ‘Eco Club’ programme of MoEF&CC is a great initiative. Every school, college, university and other academic institutions should have an active ‘Eco Club’ with the annual calendar of activities to promote environmental awareness and mobilize students’ participation for environment conservation. Similarly, ‘Nagar Van Yojana’ aims at enhancing tree outside forests and green cover in cities, for which Rs 895 crore is being spent during the period 2020-21 to 2024-25.
Union MoEF&CC, which has been allocated Rs 3,030 crore for 2022-23, a 20 per cent increase over the revised estimates in 2021-22, is implementing slew measures to retain the resilience of the environmental ecosystem including cleaner environmental protection of endangered species. The coverage of protected areas which was 4.90 per cent of the country’s geographical area in 2014 has now increased to 5.03 per cent. India has taken a leadership role in the conservation of migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway. India continues to ensure that ‘biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.’ Seventeen institutions of national importance have been recognized as national repositories for preserving voucher specimens of biodiversity.
Our States and Union Territories should adopt a holistic approach to protect the environment from degradation. I am glad to share here the fact that the Government of Haryana has established around 200 nurseries across the state where various types of saplings are being raised. During the current financial year, there is a proposal to develop 10 hi-tech nurseries. Rs 530.94 crore has been allocated in the Budget for FY 2022-23 to the environment and forests sector. Needless to say the Central and State governments have initiated several measures to make the environment more robust and cleaner.
However, individuals have their own role to play in conserving the environment. Eating habits in sync with nature and seasonal produce will be a great boost to the environment. We should develop food habits which are eco-friendly and put less strain on the environment. If fostering global knowledge and technology exchange without barriers is critical to protect the environment, there is a pressing need to use cutting-edge digital tools and technologies and create a pathway to a greener and healthier planet.
We need to remember that we have only one earth! Let us adopt a cooperative, collaborative and participative approach to tackle major environmental challenges of our time. From climate change, conserving and enhancing biodiversity, addressing pollution and managing waste to a sustainable food system, every stakeholder has to act and contribute his bit to protect Nature, which is, in the words of great poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, “the greatest of all teachers” and that “children should be surrounded with things of nature, which have their own educational value.” It is high time for us to walk the talk and send a message of hope and optimism that together we will create a resilient environment!
(The author is Governor of Haryana. The views expressed are strictly his personal)