United Nations honoured me with the ‘Champions of the
Earth Award.’ While I was extremely humbled at receiving this honour, I do
feel that this award is not for an individual. Instead, it is a recognition of the
Indian culture and values, which have always placed emphasis on living in
harmony with Mother Nature.
It was a proud moment for every Indian to see India’s proactive role in
mitigating climate change being acknowledged and appreciated by the United
Nations Secretary General,
Human beings and nature have a very special relationship. Mother Nature has
nurtured and nourished us. The first civilizations were established on the
banks of rivers. Societies that live in harmony with nature flourish and
Mahatma Gandhi wrote extensively on the environment and even practiced a
lifestyle where compassion towards the environment was essential. He
propounded the Doctrine of Trusteeship, which places the onus on us, the
present generation, to ensure that our coming generations inherit a clean
planet. He called for sustainable consumption so that the world does not face
a resource crunch.
Leading lifestyles that are harmonious and sustainable are a part of our ethos.
Once we realize how we are flag bearers of a rich tradition, it will
automatically have a positive impact on our actions.
The second aspect is public awareness. We need to talk, write, debate,
discuss and deliberate as much as possible on questions relating to the
environment. At the same time, it is vital to encourage research and
innovation on subjects relating to the environment. This is when more people
will know about the pressing challenges of our times and ways to mitigate
When we as a society are aware of our strong links with environmental
conservation and talk about it regularly, we will automatically be proactive in
working towards a sustainable environment. That is why, I will put
proactiveness as the third facet of bringing a positive change.
In this context, I am delighted to state that the 130 crore people of India are
proactive and at the forefront of working towards a cleaner and greener
We see this proactiveness in the Swachh Bharat Mission, which is directly
linked to a sustainable future. With the blessings of the people of India, over
85 million households now have access to toilets for the first time. Over 400
million Indians no longer have to defecate in the open. Sanitation coverage is
up from 39% to 95%. These are landmark efforts in the quest of reducing the
strain on our natural surroundings.
We see this proactiveness in the success of the Ujjwala Yojana, which has
significantly reduced indoor air pollution due to unhealthy cooking practices
that were causing respiratory diseases. Till date, over five crore Ujjwala
connections have been distributed, thus ensuring a better and cleaner life for
the women and their families.
India is moving at a quick pace in cleaning its rivers. The Ganga, which is
India’s lifeline, had become polluted in several parts. The Namami Gange
Mission is changing this historical wrong. Emphasis is being given to proper
treatment of sewage.
At the core of our urban development initiatives such as AMRUT and the
Smart Cities Mission is the need to balance urban growth with environmental
care. The over 13 crore soil health cards distributed to farmers are helping
them make informed decisions that will boost their productivity and improve
the health of our land, which helps the coming generations.
We have integrated objectives of Skill India in environment sector and
launched the schemes including Green Skill Development Program for skilling
about 7 million youth in environment, forestry, wildlife and climate change
sectors by 2021. This will go a long way creating numerous opportunities for
skilled jobs and entrepreneurships in environment sector.
India’s proactiveness is seen internationally. It makes me proud that India
remained at the forefront of the COP-21 negotiations in Paris in 2015. In
March 2018, world leaders of several countries converged in New Delhi to
mark the start of the International Solar Alliance, an endeavour to harness the
rich potential of solar energy and bring together all nations that are blessed
with solar power.
While the world is talking about climate change, the call for climate justice has
also reverberated from India. Climate justice is about safeguarding the rights
and interests of the poor and marginalized sections of society, who are often
the biggest sufferers from the menace of climate change.