General Assembly General Assembly

Statement by
Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative
 World Environment Day
5 June 2018

     I am happy to join this commemoration of the World Environment Day at the United Nations.

Even while the human civilisation has made all-round progress in improving our peoples, controlling diseases and benefiting from technological marvels, this rapid change is also impacting our environment in various ways, through our over reliance on fossil fuels, and our unsustainable consumption and production patterns. 

The impacts of human actions on degrading our environment - our air, rivers, oceans, forests, rural and urban spaces; threatening the survival of a large number of species including those vital to our own food chain; depleting natural resources; are in fact a threat to our own survival in the long run.

The scale and urgency of this problem is increasing by the day. Success can only be achieved by raising awareness, and taking action across the world.

Earlier today, in the visitors lobby we have witnessed some instances of the ongoing action and innovations that are contributing to improving environment protection and sustainable development.

India has been at the forefront of the international efforts to highlight the importance of our environment to life on earth. India's political leadership has consistently shown commitment to this cause at the global level, ever since the 1972 UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm leading to our active engagement and commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  

India’s commitment to ‘green social responsibility’ stems from the longstanding Indian tradition and lifestyle that is rooted in the concept of co-existence and harmony with nature. We are not viewed as separate from our nature. We are part of nature and this grand web of life.

India is, therefore, happy to participate this year as the global host for the World Environment Day celebrations.

This year's theme of 'Beat Plastic Pollution' draws attention to this very urgent and rising concern for all of us. A series of efforts are being undertaken in India to reduce the single-use-plastic pollution.

I would like to talk about some of the actions that bringing about real change in India.

Prime Minister Modi has personally led the campaign for more sustainable lifestyles, living in harmony with nature. He is leading campaigns on improving cleanliness of our cities and villages; and cleaning of rivers.

Today the Indian Government has announced its pledge to eliminate by 2022 all single use plastics in India.

Yesterday, the Government on India committed to making the 500-metre area around the 100 historic monuments, including the iconic Taj Mahal litter-free and free from plastic pollution through the Taj Declaration.

Earlier the University Grants Commission the body that oversees Universities in India directed all institutions of higher learning in India to stop the use of plastic cups, plastic packaging, plastic bags, disposable food service cups, plates, containers made in polystyrene foam and plastic straws on their campuses and restrict single-use plastic water bottle and encourage the use of refillable bottles instead.

These are only the most recent instances of the Indian Government’s efforts to focus on the plastic menace in a serious manner. They are part of growing stream of environmental consciousness being reflected in parts of our civil society.

A picturesque tourist town Pangot in the northeren Indian state of Uttarakhand is turning the tide on plastic pollution through involvement of local community and businesses.

In Kerala in southern India, fishermen are helping reduce, collect and recycle the plastic.

There are well known examples of Indian researchers and industry using plastic waste in road construction.

In Mumbai, government and local community have come forward to undertake huge efforts to clean beaches.

Several Indian states have initiated action to replace existing vehicles running on fossil fuels by a fleet of electric vehicles. A multi-stakeholder partnership to achieve this was launched last week in Mumbai.  It seeks to provide impetus to the entire e-mobility ecosystem that includes electric vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure development companies, fleet operators, service providers, etc.

The Kochi airport in southern India became the first airport in the world in 2015 to run completely on solar power.

Earlier this month, in northeastern India, the Guwahati railway station has become the first station in the country to be fully solar-powered. Last year, the Indian railways started installing solar panels on coaches.

A large number of Indian corporates are stepping forward to take actionable commitments as part of their responsibility for a better and sustainable future.

While the plastic menace is the focus of recent efforts,  we in India are working towards on a host of other areas of environmental interest. For example, mainstreaming energy efficiency. The distribution of 300 million LED bulbs in three years has resulted in savings of US$2 billion and 4GW of electricity.

We are also working with our partners globally. Earlier this year, the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance, launched by India and France at the Paris COP in 2015, brought together more than 45 countries, to promote clean affordable solar energy by mobilising resources and technology. That number of members of the Solar Alliance has now risen to more than 60 states.

Much work lies ahead. Every action counts as we seek to protect and preserve our environment.

All of us have a collective responsibility towards this. As part of these efforts India is happy to inform that it intends to partner with the UN Secretariat to use renewable solar energy at the UN premises. We hope by the next World Environment Day solar energy will part of the energy mix used in this building.

We thank the various UN agencies in working with us in these collective efforts.

Thank you