World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Commemorated on 5 June each year, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.
The agenda for WED is to give a human face to environmental issues; empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development; promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues; and advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
WED, established under the premise of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), whose headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya, and is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world. As a day that stimulates awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and public action, the first World Environment Day was celebrated in 1973. The Day is hosted every year by a different city with a different theme and is commemorated with an international exposition on the week that 5 June is on.
The theme for WED 2009 was ‘Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change’. It reflected the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal to combat climate change, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests. The hosting of WED 2009 by Mexico reflected the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.
The themes for celebrations for World Environment Day were Children and the Environment (1990), The Environment Millennium- Time to Act (2000), Connect with the World Wide Web for Life (2001), World Environment Day—Not just another day (2002), Water—Two Billion People are Dying for it! (2003), Wanted! Seas and Oceans—Dead or Alive (2004), Green Cities—Plan for the Planet! (2005), Don’t Abandon the Deserts! (2006), Melting Ice—A Hot Topic? (2007) and C02 kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy (2008).
The past events included themes such as Only one Earth, Human Settlements, Water: Vital Resource for Life, Ozone Layer, Development Without Destruction, Only one Future for Our Children-Development Without Destruction, Managing and Disposing Hazardous Waste: Acid Rain and Energy, Desertification, Youth: Population and the Environment, A Tree for Peace, Environment and Shelter: More than a Roof, Global Warming, Climate Change, Poverty and the Environment, One Earth One Family, For Life on Earth, etc.
World Environment Day is celebrated in India with programmes of tree plantation, cultural activities by school students, drawing and elocution competitions, lectures on topics related to environment protection. Few companies conduct training for Management and labor regarding general practice and minor points where they can save the natural resources. Workshops are also organized to sensitize the youth to environment and climate change issues and empower them to act as proactive change agents for sustainable development and a safe future. Besides, various activities like quiz and movie screening on topics like domestic and industrial pollution and energy conservation, and presentation on global warming and carbon footprint calculation are also organized.
On the occasion of the World Environment Day in 2009, The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) organized an ‘Environment Fair’ (sutrupurasuzhal vizha) in Chennai and Bangalore. The activities included an ‘On the spot painting competition’ and ‘Quiz’ for the students. Several leading agencies participated in the fair and educated the students on issues related to e-waste management, rain water harvesting systems, renewable energy devices, biodegradable wastes, recycle and reuse processes, and so on. Schools were provided space to display eco-friendly articles made by students.
Among other events, the Heritage India Foundation organized a multimedia presentation. GDCL, Gujarat carried out a workshop on Sustainable Project Management for eco- friendly infrastructure and energy efficiency. Team R.A.K.S.H.A organized a week long Programme in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The programmes included tree planting, awareness rising about global warming, vegetarianism, wildlife conservation, nature trail and bird watching in a wild life area, plastic bags removal from wild life areas and educating people about the effects of plastic on nature and environment. Team R.A.K.S.H.A. also launched a snake helpline and organized road shows and awareness drives about “go green” revolution and curbing global warming from a common man’s perspective.
Eco tourism and cleaning drives were promoted by various institutes to create awareness and sensitivity to the issues of global warming. The Mumbai-based Humanity Foundation arranged a Lecture of Environmental Experts for the General public on the topic “How does a Common man can support to save Environment”.
A Student Partnerships Worldwide (SPW) programme reinforced the three R’s of environmental conservation, such as students calculating their individual carbon footprints; students and teachers taking a pledge to become ‘green’ ambassadors; and recycled paper making. The Forestry Department and local business’ alike gave talks of environmentally friendly practices and offer career advice for those looking for work in a ‘green’ sector.