Environmental refocusing: crucial and immediate - GulfToday

Environmental refocusing: crucial and immediate


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Meena Janardhan

After struggling to deal with the pandemic and the social and economic effects of the lockdown, countries are now slowly opening up and reinventing the wheel. And, as the world virtually celebrated World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June, it is extremely crucial and essential that every government refocuses and reprioritises ecological and environmental threats.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) points out that as nations of the world strive to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s WED brings into sharp focus the importance of fundamentally shifting humanity’s relationship with nature to preserve our societies and prevent future pandemics.

Several initiatives were announced across the globe to commemorate the WED – but the need is to see them through and to revive and strengthen earlier and existing ones too.

In India, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the India office of the UNEP announced an urban forest programme in 200 cities, while the UNEP and TED-Ed’s “Earth School” was incorporated into the Ministry of Human Resources’ digital platform for teachers, DIKSHA.

Called the Nagar van (urban forest) scheme,  the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that the aim is to develop 200 urban forests across the country in next five years with a renewed focus on people’s participation and collaboration between forest departments, municipal bodies, NGOs, corporates and local citizens.

A film played during India’s WED celebrations narrated how the initiatives of Pune residents along with the forest department and local bodies has converted 16.8 ha of a barren hill into green forests. Today, the forest is rich in biodiversity with 23 plant species, 29 bird species, 15 butterfly species, 10 reptiles and 3 mammal species. The Warje Urban Forest project is now helping maintain ecological balance, serving both environmental and social needs and is a role model for the rest of the country.

The WED is the United Nations’ biggest event advocating for environmental action and the need to protect our planet. Since it was first observed in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach on the environment in over 100 countries.

This year Colombia and Germany co-hosted the main WED celebrations, streamed live online from Bogotá. Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez and Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UNEP Executive Director, led global calls to declare it “Time #ForNature,” a call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.

“This year, we cannot take to the beaches, forests and streets. We must stay at home, keep our distance and mark World Environment Day virtually. This is because we all stand in solidarity with those suffering from the global pandemic. We need to protect the sick, the poor and the vulnerable from the worst ravages of this disease. While these online celebrations are a tribute to human commitment and ingenuity, the fact that we have to do it this way means something is terribly wrong with human stewardship of the Earth. This virus is not bad luck, or a one-off event that nobody could see coming. It is an entirely predictable result of humanity’s destruction of nature – which will cause far greater suffering if left unchecked,” Andersen said.

Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment released its statistical e-compendium on ‘State of India’s Environment’ to mark WED 2020. The book brings out the massive scale of the economic impact of the pandemic. It states that lockdowns have adversely affected almost 1.6 billion (76%) of the world’s informal work-force and that the pandemic has put 265 million people at risk of starvation.

The report highlights that for the first time in 22 years, global poverty levels will rise. Around 50% of the global population is under lockdown or containment with little or no new income – 40-60 million people would be living in extreme poverty in the coming months due to loss of income. India will add 12 million more poor, the highest in the world, to its shattered population.

A comprehensive study of the status on the progress of sustainable development goals (SDGs), state of forests, groundwater development, wasteland, and livestock, the e-compendium shows that India is lagging behind in meeting nine of the 17 SDGs. It adds that Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh are some of the best governed states – based on their performance in 10 key sectors.

Related articles

Other Articles