Reiterating India’s commitment to sustainable development, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has said that Indian experience shows that development can be environment-friendly and need not come at the cost of our green assets. In his address at the Plenary Session of the global celebrations of World Environment Day 2018 here today, the Prime Minister emphasised that plastic threatens to become a menace to humanity and is already having a deadly impact on our marine ecosystem and a lot of it is non-bio-degradable. “Marine litter especially micro-plastic, is a major trans-boundary problem”, the Prime Minister said. Modi underlined that the choices that we make today will define our collective future. He added that thechoices may not be easy, but through awareness, technology and a genuine global partnership, we can make the right choices.
The Prime Minister said that India is privileged to be the global host for the World Environment Day, 2018. “We believe that the entire world is but one family – “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, Modi said, adding that it is in this spirit of universal brotherhood that we are hosting this day this year. “For us in India, respect for nature is an integral part of our value system. We treat nature and natural resources as sacred”, he affirmed. The Prime Minister observed that environmental degradation hurts the poor and vulnerable more than the other sections of the society and it is our duty to ensure that in our quest for material prosperity of some, the ecosystem services that environment provides to us is not compromised with. “Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live, as we have only one planet,” Modi said.
In his address, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Harsh Vardhan reaffirmed India’s commitment to defeat plastic pollution. Dr Vardhan said that for long-term sustainable living, the global community needs to rethink its energy and resource consumption patterns. The Environment Minister stressed that to beat plastic pollution, we need to completely rethink our approach towards designing, manufacturing and disposal of plastic products. He informed that plastic packaging accounts for around 50% of global plastic waste, with much of it being single-use plastic. Dr Vardhan appealed to Governments, private sector, civil society organizations and individuals to partner and play a major role in weaning the society away from dependence on single-use plastic. Advocating an out-of-the-box approach through solutions that lead to Green Good Behaviour, he said that Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of living in harmony with nature. He urged every citizen to become a Green Ambassador. “If each and every one of us does at least one Green Good Deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billion of Green Good Deeds daily on the planet. We can conserve the environment only when it becomes a People’s Movement”, Dr Vardhan averred.
Welcoming the participants, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Mahesh Sharma said, the United Nations approached the Government of India to be the global host of WED 2018, with a focus on plastic waste and pollution and we were happy to play the leadership role. Dr Sharma said, “It is important to note that India’s annual per capita plastic consumption is almost 1/3rd of the global average. Plastic waste is still a concern for us like any other country and we have plenty of grassroots initiatives showcasing a possible way ahead by involving participation of various stakeholders”. He added that the World Environment Day provides an opportunity to commit ourselves to build a healthy environment and rededicate our efforts in this direction.
Executive Director, UN Environment, Erik Solheim, expressed his gratitude to the people and Government of India for such an elaborate organization of the World Environment Day 2018, which is unprecedented. He shared his experience of rich valuable interactions with people during his visit to various parts of the country in last few days especially Taj Mahal, Agra. ‟In India, there are many initiatives against plastic waste and pollution going on like the one led by grassroot communities, government and local population, corporate sector and enthusiastic environmentalists amongst others, which are both a source inspiration and encouragement for the international community”, Solheim said.
The Prime Minister released a commemorative stamp, first-day cover and brochure on the theme of World Environment Day 2018 – “Beat Plastic Pollution”. Five publications were also released titled – “Plant Discoveries 2017” published by Botanical Survey of India, three publications by MoEFCC on “Compendium of Traded Indian Medicinal Plants”, “Plastics in Life and Environment ‟Animal Discoveries 2017” published by Zoological Survey of India, and,” and “Beat Plastic Pollution: Good News from India”.
CEOs of six corporate houses shared their efforts to partner with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and pledged their support to reduce single-use plastics as part of their operations. The pledges were made by Chairman and MD, ONGC, Shashi Shankar, President, Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA), Dr Shailendra Chouksey, Executive Director, ITC Limited Nakul Anand, Chairman-cum-Managing Director, NBCC, AK Mittal, CEO, Procter and Gamble (P&G), Madhusudan Gopalan and MD & CEO, Hindustan Unilever, Sanjeev Mehta.
An exhibition titled Sambandh was organized in the back lawns of Vigyan Bhawan, showcasing the intrinsic relationship between people and environment with tremendous footfall in last three days. The Prime Minister visited the exhibition and appreciated the rich knowledge presented by participating institutions in different sectors and its linkage with pollution, especially plastics.