TreeHugger is on the ground in India, traveling with UNEP and the winner of our joint blogging contest Ximena Prugue for the next couple of days, attending World Environment Day 2011 activities in Delhi and Bangalore. Here’s a taste of the whirlwind schedule of day 1:
WED 2011 has the theme of Forests: Nature at Your Service so what better way to kick off everything than commemorating a reforestation project. Worth noting, in the photo at the top those aren’t the trees actually planted, rather they’re bonsai presented to various dignitaries in attendance.
Off among farmland in Mehrauli, just outside the city of Delhi proper but still within the city limits, on now-degraded land thousands of trees have been planted in an effort to reestablish forests, providing expanded wildlife habitat and ecosystem restoration–which as Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh (above, talking with students attending the event) is keen to point out at every opportunity means improved livelihoods for people as well.
The photos above don’t really give a sense of scale to the project. Similar saplings have been planted, minus the commemorative plaques of course, over most of the area extending to the horizon in these photos.
Above is Ximena, turning from writing to presenting in front of the camera. The days are packed here so no one has really had a chance to breathe, reflect and write much yet, but we’ll be featuring her writing on the site soon. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter: @ximenaphophena.
Later in the day (after this much-jet lagged writer, exhausted from 36+ hours of travel attempted some sleep; Ximena should have some coverage of events in between…), the traveling roadshow of UNEP Executive Direction Achim Steiner + Jairam Ramesh moved on to Delhi Haat. At the outdoor market a special ‘Green Haat’ has been organized showcasing lots of great non-timber forest products such as herbal medicines, crafts, cosmetics, and organic foods.
Top: Achim Steiner being shown some of the products being displayed and sold. Bottom: Every fair like this seems to have some sort of message board for people to sign, however this one had some cleverer-than-most responses viz “Wood is good, but woods are better” at the center.
All in all it was much more compelling than many similar green fairs I’ve attended in the United States. And I don’t say that just because of my natural attraction to the foods and crafts of India. At many fairs in the US there’s an air of the alternative, that the items on display are in sharp contrast to the norm. At the Green Haat the feeling was more of just showcasing the non-alternative, the traditional.
Indeed that showcasing on India’s natural and long-standing advantages in the area of handicraft, agriculture, in small-scale manufacturing was highlighted later in statements by various presenters. Minister Ramesh rightly pointed out that India has a thousands year old tradition in sustainable craft and manufacturing that is alive and well. It’s exactly the sort of thing that is a key (if certainly not only) part of developing a green economy.
Some other interesting and poignant points made during at the press portion of the Green Haat on Friday evening:
Achim Steiner highlighted something which needs to be said more, on renewable energy versus fossil fuels. Renewable energy may require more of an up front investment, but it only gets cheaper over time–both in terms of the energy becoming free once the materials and installation have been paid off, and in that those costs will only come down in the future once the technology becomes more widely used. In sharp contrast, fossil fuels (be they coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear) are only going to rise in price. All are capable of and currently being depleted, and at increasing rates. That just means that they will go up in price as scarcity builds for them.
On World Environment Day itself, June 5th, there will be a special presentation about the role of women in environmentalism, but Jairam brought it up right away. It cannot be said enough, women have been at the forefront of environmental protection historically and continue to be, both in India and elsewhere. With the inherent connection between environment and health, environment and family, environment and livelihood, it is only natural. It’s not a political statement Ramesh said, when asked by a reporter, only a matter of fact that women are the leaders in this area.
India’s performance on global environment index has improved earning it the 123th rank, primarily because of progress made in renewables. And, this has earned kudos for India’s green industry from United Nations Environment Programme executive Director Achim Steiner. “India has invested a lot in gre
en economy,” Steiner said, while addressing Indian industry in the Capital on Friday but wanted the industry to raise the bar.
This comes after a global environment performance index released recently ranked India at 123 among 165 nations, a jump of three positions as compared to previous years. Iceland tops the ranking while Sierra Leone is at the bottom of the table.
But, that does not mean that Indians do not want more. Majority of Indians in a global survey by US based public opinion agency Gallup said they want the country to adopt green economy norms for development.
Indians are more likely to say they are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment (45%) than the ones who say they are dissatisfied (38%), the survey said, adding that majority of is more concerned about environment than economic growth.
The Indian industry can boost of being green primarily because of gains made in solar generation. A study released by Ernst and Young this week ranked India among top three nations, after China and US, on renewable growth.
The high ranking was primarily on progress made in installing solar photo-voltaic to generate power and off shore wind energy turbines.
But environment minister Jairam Ramesh still feels that India is not doing enough in research and development of renewable to become world leader as it was in 1980s.
United Nations has declared the year 2011 as the ‘International Year of Forests’. This year on World Environment Day the UN will reinforce this global concern with the official tagline — Forests: Nature at Your Service. Today we truly need technologies, which run on green technology systems. India has initiated several projects on the lines of green technology to save the environment. On February 22, 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is fast moving towards a green economy.
It will be for the first time that India will host World Environment Day 2011 (WED) on June 5, 2011 in New Delhi. The theme of this year is ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’ and it emphasises the intrinsic link between quality of life and the health of forests and ecosystems.
During the event, the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will be held. It marks the beginning of an international decade for bio-diversity. It also proves India’s commitment towards biomass economy.
Two of India’s most prominent cities — Delhi and Mumbai — are the venues for this year’s global celebration of the environment. A myriad of activities will be organised to create awareness among masses regarding conservation of the environment. In order to conserve ecosystem, Government of India has initiated projects, which will keep track of the nation’s bio-diversity parks and other natural resources.
Emphasis will be laid to make people aware about how individual actions can have an impact, with a variety of activities ranging from tree-plantation drives to community clean-ups, car-free days, photo competitions on forests, bird-watching trips, city park clean-up initiatives, exhibits, green competitions, nationwide green campaigns and much more.
The Government of India is actively introducing programmes, which will ensure a clean environment for its people. India has also launched a Compensatory Afforestation Programme under which any diversion of public forests for non-forestry purposes is compensated through afforestation in degraded or non-forested areas.
For this programme, a body has been formed by the Central government to make environment conservation projects a success. India is one of the fastest emerging economies in the world.
However, India still continues to be the front runner in generating green technology. Amid all the discussions on green technologies, the Government of India has recently decided to conduct an assessment of the impact of GDP growth on ecology using Green Accounting System.
India is currently planning one of the largest green energy projects that will generate 20,000 MW of solar power and 3,000 MW from wind farms on 50,000 acres in Karnataka.
The first phase of the US$50 billion project will start in the year 2012.
This is underlined by India’s introduction of the Clean Energy Fund into its national budget, which provides subsidies for green technology and has been the basis for a National Action Plan on Climate Change, which sets specific targets on issues such as energy efficiency and sustaining the Himalayan eco-system.