World Environment Day Festivities Kick Off In Delhi: Reforestation Projects & A Great Green Haat
TreeHugger is on the ground in India, traveling with UNEP and the winner of our joint blogging contest Ximena Prugue for the next couple of days, attending World Environment Day 2011 activities in Delhi and Bangalore. Here's a taste of the whirlwind schedule of day 1:WED 2011 has the theme of Forests: Nature at Your Service so what better way to kick off everything than commemorating a reforestation project. Worth noting, in the photo at the top those aren't the trees actually planted, rather they're bonsai presented to various dignitaries in attendance.
Off among farmland in Mehrauli, just outside the city of Delhi proper but still within the city limits, on now-degraded land thousands of trees have been planted in an effort to reestablish forests, providing expanded wildlife habitat and ecosystem restoration--which as Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh (above, talking with students attending the event) is keen to point out at every opportunity means improved livelihoods for people as well.
The photos above don't really give a sense of scale to the project. Similar saplings have been planted, minus the commemorative plaques of course, over most of the area extending to the horizon in these photos.
Above is Ximena, turning from writing to presenting in front of the camera. The days are packed here so no one has really had a chance to breathe, reflect and write much yet, but we'll be featuring her writing on the site soon. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter: @ximenaphophena.
Later in the day (after this much-jet lagged writer, exhausted from 36+ hours of travel attempted some sleep; Ximena should have some coverage of events in between...), the traveling roadshow of UNEP Executive Direction Achim Steiner + Jairam Ramesh moved on to Delhi Haat. At the outdoor market a special 'Green Haat' has been organized showcasing lots of great non-timber forest products such as herbal medicines, crafts, cosmetics, and organic foods.
Top: Achim Steiner being shown some of the products being displayed and sold. Bottom: Every fair like this seems to have some sort of message board for people to sign, however this one had some cleverer-than-most responses viz "Wood is good, but woods are better" at the center.
All in all it was much more compelling than many similar green fairs I've attended in the United States. And I don't say that just because of my natural attraction to the foods and crafts of India. At many fairs in the US there's an air of the alternative, that the items on display are in sharp contrast to the norm. At the Green Haat the feeling was more of just showcasing the non-alternative, the traditional.
Indeed that showcasing on India's natural and long-standing advantages in the area of handicraft, agriculture, in small-scale manufacturing was highlighted later in statements by various presenters. Minister Ramesh rightly pointed out that India has a thousands year old tradition in sustainable craft and manufacturing that is alive and well. It's exactly the sort of thing that is a key (if certainly not only) part of developing a green economy.
Some other interesting and poignant points made during at the press portion of the Green Haat on Friday evening:
Achim Steiner highlighted something which needs to be said more, on renewable energy versus fossil fuels. Renewable energy may require more of an up front investment, but it only gets cheaper over time--both in terms of the energy becoming free once the materials and installation have been paid off, and in that those costs will only come down in the future once the technology becomes more widely used. In sharp contrast, fossil fuels (be they coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear) are only going to rise in price. All are capable of and currently being depleted, and at increasing rates. That just means that they will go up in price as scarcity builds for them.
On World Environment Day itself, June 5th, there will be a special presentation about the role of women in environmentalism, but Jairam brought it up right away. It cannot be said enough, women have been at the forefront of environmental protection historically and continue to be, both in India and elsewhere. With the inherent connection between environment and health, environment and family, environment and livelihood, it is only natural. It's not a political statement Ramesh said, when asked by a reporter, only a matter of fact that women are the leaders in this area.
Ximena and the UNEP team are off to Bangalore this morning for more events; I'm in Delhi writing. More Delhi and Bangalore coverage through Monday. It's all collected here: World Environment Day 2011 on TreeHugger.