No meeting like the one in Paris or any law can preserve the environment if people don’t come forward to address the issue, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan today said on the eve of World Environment Day. Addressing a function, the minister said it is futile to celebrate World Environment Day if people don’t inculcate in themselves the idea of conserving the environment throughout the year and batted for a minimalist lifestyle to save the planet. He also mooted that the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) take up the role of a facilitator, and not just a regulator, by initiating proactive steps for conservation of earth with the involvement of people. “No law or meetings in Paris can protect our environment. It can only happen if people become aware of the issues and do things on their own to protect it. All NGOs should work together to achieve this goal,” the minister said.
India has said it is committed to the Paris agreement “irrespective” of the stand taken by any other country after the United States announced its withdrawal from the UN climate deal. Advocating a change in lifestyle to save environment, especially in the cities, the minister said, “we should learn how to lead simpler lives, simple thought, the concept of early to bed and early to rise, to eat less, to live long”. He urged the people to opt for public transport and cycles more, reduce the use of air-conditioners and work towards realising the Prime Minister’s vision of Swachh Bharat and cleanliness.
He also appealed to the people to use water judiciously. He directed the ministry officials to start water conservation in the right earnest in the Environment Ministry itself. He stressed that the Ministry should “not work only as a regulator, but more like a facilitator in a true sense”. Asking officials to not make it merely “a department for approvals”, Harsh Vardhan said that they should initiate steps to save environment and involve children in these endeavours.
He also expressed unhappiness over the way awards were given to mark the day. “We should do a rethink at these awards that are given out on this day. Why have only three children been awarded? They are being given a very meagre amount, it is unacceptable,” he said. Three students were chosen in different categories for their contribution towards the environment and were given cash rewards of Rs 5000, Rs 6000 and Rs 10,000. The minister said that the environment ministry should replicate schemes of the ministry of science and technology( (MST). Three lakh students are awarded every year by the MST.
Harsh Vardhan, who headed MST, was given additional charge of MoEF following the demise of Anil Madhav Dave.He also said that such students should be supported further by the ministry in their future endeavours. “To inspire the quest for science, the MoEF should look at ‘Jigyasa’ (curiosity) programme which was created in collaboration with the HRD Ministry, under which school children will come to CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) labs to see for themselves the work being done there,” he said. “Our ancestors had given us pure air, water and earth, they had given us rich forests and great soil. “They had also given us teachings on how to preserve them. If we had kept our environment clean, then we wouldn’t need climate change conferences. In order to deliver new India, all our contributions are needed,” said Harsh Vardhan.
Books detailing the new discoveries of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and Botanical Survey of India (BSI) were released by Harsh Vardhan on the occasion. A mobile App and Web GIS of Faunal information of Wildlife Sanctuaries for ZSI were also launched by the Minister on the occasion. A brochure on ‘Training Modules for the Pilot: Green Skill Development Programme’ was also released. The UN has chosen the theme of connecting people to nature for the World Environment Day this year.