5th June World Environment Day (WED). It is an annual global event coordinated by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) where I led the most successful global programme of capacity building of the 146 developing countries that resulted in ‘flattening’ the rising curve (to use current COVID19 terminology!) of Ozone Layer Depletion. Now the ozone layer is on path of recovery. Unfortunately, we have not repeated that success in other global environmental issues.
In 2020 World Environment Day was observed in the midst of global emergency of COVID19. There are add-on emergencies including violation of human-rights, apartheid, war-refugees, locust attacks, hurricanes and of course political upheavals. In such dangerous crisis, I consider that it is bold move by UNEP to have decided that theme of 2020 WED would be ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’!
IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem) in its 2019 report states that over one billion bio-species are under threat of extinction and that rate of extinction today is hundreds of times more than the average of last 10 million years. That raises the question: what exactly are we celebrating?
May be because of the global lockdown we humans for the first time started watching the biodiversity so close to their own habitat that we had in the past few centuries grabbed from these diverse animals and plants we feel like celebrating it? Or, are we celebrating our newly acquired ability to understand the meaning of biodiversity?
I also look at WED from more positive angle. State of Environment is in state of Emergency. That emergency has triggered urgent actions. I see such urgency around me. Today Environment and Emergency have become synonyms! Nothing more demonstrates more clearly the existence of these synonyms than emergency-decision recently taken by Beijing University and IIT-Gandhinagar to carry out benchmark study of biodiversity in their campus. Other universities are coming forward and using the Framework of designing the biodiversity conservation plans for the university campus, developed by TERRE Policy Centre under Smart Campus Cloud Network (sccnhub.com)
There is yet another message that gives rise to hope that one day we would indeed celebrate biodiversity. Recognising the high proportion of the degraded land in India and its useful links between Biodiversity and Forest, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 during UNCCD (United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification) that India would enhance its target of restoring the degraded land by 5 million hectares. That appears not a big enhancement, but direction is clear. Restoring can be done by verities of way. Afforestation is one of them.
TERRE Policy Centre which considers itself more as an action-platform rather than a think-tank has successfully established a Public-Private partnership to create an urban forest in the middle of India’s mega city-Pune within four years. Initiated by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched this urban afforestation in degraded land, which otherwise would have used for building concrete-jungle for human habitat. Now there stands an Urban Forest on nearly 20 hectares of land.
The private sector, TERRE Policy Centre ( https://terrepolicycentre.com/) -a civil society organisation and the Government’s Forest department joined hands to form a working PPP – Private Public Partnership to make it a success. The volunteers from universities and colleges under SCCN come on weekends for voluntary service to water the plants and cut the unwanted grass.
More than 9000 indigenous trees form the forest where thousands come for a health walk, they absorb nearly 130 metric T of CO2 and produce 562 tons of Oxygen annually. And trees have not demanded any cost for this absorption of GHGs and producing life-supporting products. Smart Campus Cloud Network a web of the global university is the project of TERRE that triggers the activities on the campus to contribute to SDGs. Digital technology is used to monitor implementation. Cloud helps in sharing the information. There are other NGOs that believe in action than the words. Maybe that needs to be celebrated on World Environment Day! (END)