In early March, while receiving the prestigious CERA Week Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the people of India were natural leaders when it came to caring for the environment.
“The award recognizes environmental leadership. It is commonly said that the best way to show is through action. There’s no doubt that when it comes to caring for the environment, the people of India are the leaders, and it has been the case for centuries,” said PM Modi said as he delivered the keynote address at the award ceremony via video-conferencing.
India leads the way
“This award recognizes environmental leadership. It is commonly said that the best way to show is through action. There’s no doubt that when it comes to caring for the environment, the people of India are the leaders, and it has been the case for centuries,” added the Prime Minister.
PM Modi also remembered the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion and said that in Gandhi, India had one of the greatest environment champions to have ever lived. “If humanity had followed the path given by him, we would not have faced several problems we face today. I would urge all of you to visit Mahatma’s home in the coastal city of Porbandar. Next to his home, you will get very practical lessons on water conversations such as underground water tanks constructed over 200 years ago!” he added.
The CERA Week Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award recognise the commitment of leadership towards the future of global energy and environment, and for offering solutions and policies for energy access, affordability and environmental stewardship.
Earth Day highlights environmental issues
The award precedes Earth Day to be observed on April 22 every year that aims to raise awareness for Earth’s environment. Earth Day was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and raise awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution. Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, the United Nations calls it the ‘International Mother Earth Day.’
Year after year, Earth Day highlights environmental issues like loss of biodiversity, increasing pollution, etc. It is the changes in biodiversity that affect ecosystem functioning drastically and cause significant disruptions in ecosystems. On this occasion, programmes are conducted at schools and institutional level to enhance awareness among children. After the Coronavirus Pandemic, it’s time the commemoration spreads beyond a Day or an event and gets internalized within each and every individual whose very existence is synonymous with the Earth. Celebrating Earth Day could be a good starting point.
Communities becoming sustainable
India, on her part, has been observing environmental norms even enhancing awareness through its villages and towns. Dharnai which once struggling to get basic electricity like most villages in India has now gone on to become the first village in India to completely run on solar power. Since the launch of Greenpeace’s solar-powered 100 kilowatt micro-grid in 2014, quality electricity is being provided to more than 2,400 people living in this village in Jehanabad district.
In Nagaland’s Phek district, a village by the name of Chizami has launched a mini revolution of sorts by embarking upon socio-economic reforms and environmental protection for almost a decade. The village is visited by youth from Kohima and neighbouring villages for internships in the Chizami model of development.
Here, it is marginalized women who have played an important role in bringing about this socio-economic and sustainable transformation rooted in traditional practices of the state.
Maharashtra’s Payvihir, a village in the foothills of Melghat region of Amravati district, has shown how communities and NGOs can work together to conserve the environment and ensure sustainable livelihood for people.
Why, in 2014, Payvihir also bagged the Biodiversity Award from the United Nation’s Development Programme for converting a barren, 182-hectare land under community forest right, into a forest. The village recently was in the news for coming up with an out-of-the-box idea of selling organic sitafals (custard apples) and mangoes in Mumbai under their brand Naturals Melghat!
Also, tackling drought the most formidable scourge of rural India by its horns is a village in Maharashtra that hasn’t called for a single water tanker since 1995. It, incidentally, has 60 millionaires and the highest per-capita income in India. After facing repeated water crisis each year because of the paltry rainfall, the village decided to shun water-intensive crops and opted instead for horticulture and dairy farming.
Their conviction and consistent water conservation initiatives led to rising groundwater levels and the village started to prosper. Today, the village has 294 open wells, each brimming with water just as the village brims with prosperity.
Rural settings with urban amenities
And then, barely 100 kms from Ahmedabad, stands Punsari village which has closed-circuit cameras, water purifying plants, biogas plants, air-conditioned schools, Wi-Fi and biometric machines. Done in a matter of eight years, at a cost of ₹ 16 crore, the task was initiated by a tech-savvy sarpanch – 33-year-old Himanshu Patel – who proudly states that his village offers “the amenities of a city but the spirit of a village.”
And then is Ramchandrapur – the first village in Telangana region to win the Nirmal Puraskar in 2004-05 – that shot to limelight a decade ago when the villagers pledged to donate their eyes for the visually challenged.
Among its many achievements, all the houses in the village have smokeless chullahs and toilets with tap-water facilities. It is the first village in the state to construct a sub-surface dyke on the nearby river and solve drinking water problems by constructing two over-head tanks in each house. The village does not have drainage system and all the water generated from each house is diverted to the gardens again planted by the villagers in each house.
While the rest of India, particularly urban zones across India struggle with the issue, Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong village has successfully managed to ban plastic. That apart, the spotless paths in the village are lined with flowers, bamboo dustbins at corners while volunteers sweep the streets at regular intervals and large signboards warn visitors against littering. The tiny, 600-odd-person hamlet in Meghalaya is today renowned as the cleanest village in India and Asia.
Climate Change affects us all
This year around, around Earth Day, on April 20 and April 21, ahead of the Biden Administration’s global leaders’ climate summit, Earthday.org along with lead organisers Education International, Hip Hop Caucus, and Earth Uprising are organising three separate parallel climate action summits.
The summits are focused respectively on climate literacy, environmental justice, and a broad range of youth-led climate-focused issues. The Earth Week is all set to bring millions of voices together to stand up for climate action and bring awareness to humanity’s greatest existential threat.
Earthday.org believes that Earth Day is every day and hence programmes continue right through the year. They take place in varied geographic regions: deltas, deserts (both cold and hot), mountainous, riverine and coastal areas, plains and valleys as well as islands. The programmes hit a peak on each Earth Day i.e. April 22, when millions of people partake in the events.
It may be worth noting that Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans — 10 per cent of the U.S. population at that time took to the streets to protest against environmental ignorance. Since then, it has been an annual event. As a result, environment and earth conservation became a topic of discussion on the national level. Back home, in India, the earth is celebrated in rituals, ceremonies, religions, songs and drama throughout the year. And, apart from the Earth are celebrated the Wind, the Sea and Nature in myriad forms, even as Gods and Goddesses across Hinduism and tribal cultures. A specific day for the commemoration is a Western construct. For Indians, it’s a way of life.