India has set example by harmonising development, environment: UNEP chief

NEW DELHI, Feb 19:
Describing India’s efforts to fight air pollution in New Delhi and other big cities as “very encouraging”, UNEP chief Erik Solheim today said the country’s experience in harmonising development and environment protection is an example for the world.
Calling India the “fastest growing nation on the planet”, Solheim said India has set an example for others by moving towards development while taking care of the environment.
“Such a move is very important not only for Indians but also for the world. India is a big and populous country. So what happens in India is critical for the planet,” he said.
“The Indian Government is stepping up ways to fight air pollution in Delhi and other big cities. The move is very encouraging for the rest of the world,” said the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The air quality in India’s national capital was “very poor” in November and December last year, with toxic smog disrupting normal life and even an international cricket match.
Solheim was speaking on the sidelines of a programme to sign a letter of intent on India hosting the World Environment Day on June 5, 2018. Solheim and Union Environment Secretary C K Mishra signed the letter.
India will be the global host of the World Environment Day and the “Beat Plastic Pollution” theme.
India previously hosted the World Environment Day in 2011. Every year a different country is chosen as the principal venue for the global celebration of the World Environment Day.
Solheim lauded the steps taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in steering the debate on environmental issues.
From the “very old-fashioned” debate on ‘Does India want to develop or India wants to take care of environment’, he said, the narrative has now changed to “How can we develop and take care of the environment by the same means”.
Citing Andhra Pradesh, Solheim said the state is close to the highest economic growth in India at 12 per cent, but it is rapidly adopting solar power and transforming its agriculture into natural farming at the same time.
“So it is going green rapidly while developing at the same time and that is the future of the world,” he added. Another effort India is spearheading is engaging people to conserve the environment.
Modi is engaging people to contribute to the development of the country and to the environment through campaigns like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Clean India’, he said.
“And I wish to take these examples set by India to international arena, because we do need to engage people around the world to save the environment,” he said. Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan also talked about India’s efforts in fighting environmental pollution.
“Saving environment is a mission for India. In 2018, we will try to do our best to create an example so that India’s experience could be utilised by the rest of the world. We are looking at the smallest causes of pollution that harm the environment,” he said. He underlined that India attaches special importance to the environment as it also holds religious importance. Talking about the theme of this year’s World Environment Day of fighting plastic pollution, he said the government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that this problem is eradicated. (PTI)