World Environment Day celebration that began in 1972, is now a global movement that has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political & social attention and action. It enables enable everyone to realize that not only it is their responsibility but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.
India is blessed with rich natural resources, from the mighty Himalayas to the Gangetic plains to the Deccan; from the deserts to the lush greens in the North east; the Western Ghats, the coasts and the islands. No wonder our country is one of the 12 mega-diverse countries in the world, rich in biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. It is not just about the tigers and the elephants, but it is also about the algae and the fungi, and the microbes that build up our systems. This biodiversity can only be protected for future use through informed and responsible decision making and by sustainable use by the communities. This requires understanding the value of the ecosystems to the benefit of the communities. Being aware of the biodiversity is the key to protecting the fragile ecosystem and threatened species. One of the example is that the tiger. The tiger population estimates, through sustained interventions, has increased in numbers from 1411 in 2006 to 1706 (about 20% increase).
The mosaic of environment conservation is interwoven with sustainable livelihoods through implementation of programmes at the local level, creating awareness and fostering partnerships. To fight degradation of the ecosystem and biodiversity, the policies of the Ministry aim at a convergence between sustainable natural resources management and livelihood enhancement programmes. These innovative approaches are aimed to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water while providing sustainable livelihoods.
The current decade (2010-2020) has been declared as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification. With India is hosting the Eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP-11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), from 8- 19 October 2012 in Hyderabad. This CBD COP 11 assumes immense importance considering that it is being held in the 40th anniversary year of Stockholm Conference held in 1972, 20th anniversary year of Rio Earth Summit held in 1992, and 10th anniversary year of World Sustainable Summit held in 2002. This would also be the first CoP in the UN Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020. About 10,000 delegates and participants from 192 countries are expected to participate in the event, making in one of the largest global event.
In an effort to highlight the multifaceted dimension of biodiversity, the Ministry of Environment & Forests is flagging off the “Science Express – Biodiversity Special” – a collaborative initiative between the Ministry and the Department of Science & Technology.
The train “Science Express” with the theme on Biodiversity, very clearly enunciates our commitment to the creating awareness on the diverse ecosystems that sustains us and way and means to conserve the same. The Science Express- Biodiversity Special- “Biodiversity on Wheels” is an exhibition – an expression of our existence!
Why the train? One would ask.
The Ministry chose the Science Express train as a medium to reach out to the far flung areas through its extensive networks that will enable reaching out to the masses and create widespread awareness on the rich biodiversity of our country and the issues associated thereof. The Science Express- Biodiversity Special will be traversing across the country over two years, halting at more than 100 plus stations. Between 5 June 2012 & 22 Dec 2012, the train will travel almost 18,000 km, halting for 3-4 days at each of the 52 locations. It is expected that the train will be visited by a wide range of people, especially school & college students, directly engaging more than 15 lakh visitors and engaging over 50 lakhs people indirectly. Platform and outreach activities are being planned at each halt and will actively engage Ministry’s National Environment Awareness Programme (NEAC) and National Green Corps (NGC).
The train’s 8 coaches devoted to show-case the biodiversity of the country through different lens and include exhibits on bio-culture heritage, biodiversity-livelihoods linkages, and the also domestic biodiversity. The train also has four other coaches dedicated to climate change, biodiversity & water and energy conservation, supported by other agencies, like HSBC, PCRA and the Swiss Embassy & Nestle. One coach is dedicated to the Joy of Science Lab which throws open the door of scientific experimentation to students specially school children.
The exquisiteness of the train is the collaborative effort between multiple stakeholders, including government ministries, scientific organizations, the civil society organizations and the corporate in bringing together the significance of biodiversity in our lives.
I take this opportunity to invite you all to visit the Science Express- Biodiversity Special and experience the unique biodiversity that our country that so proudly boasts of. I also call upon each of us present here to pledge our allegiance to the future generation by leaving behind a ‘living & thriving planet’. Lastly, I would like to share with you the slogan of the UN CBD COP meeting that summarizes our relationship with nature – ‘Prakriti Rakshati Rakshita” – Nature protects if she is protected.”