World Environment Day 2012

An extremely innovative, informative and interesting event was organized by The Maharashtra United Nations Association in collaboration with the Indian Coastal Guard (Ministry of Defence – Govt. of India) on Tuesday to celebrate and observe World Environment Day aboard the Coast Guard ships ICGS Samudra Prahari and INS Sankalp at Mumbai. The event was a first of its kind initiative between the Maharashtra United Nations Association (MUNA) and armed services which deal with marine environment protection in the state. The celebration dwelt on the theme Green Economy: Are you part of it? This is also the theme of the international conference Rio +20 to be held at Rio De Janiero by the United Nations in June 2012.

The event kicked off with Deputy Inspector General NV Narasimha giving the welcome address along with a brief introduction to the activities of the Indian Coast Guard which included safeguarding the Indian coastline as well as issues related to protection of the marine ecology and environment. He also welcomed the initiative by MUNA and aired hopes of having more such joint initiatives to increase awareness among the officers of the defence forces as well as the common man.
The program flagged off with the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban ki Moon’s Message which was flashed on the screen and a special video message from Ms Kiran Mehra - Kerpelman, Director United Nations Information Center (UNIC), for India and Bhutan, New Delhi, in which she congratulated Maharashtra United Nations Association and officials of Indian Coast Guard for the collaboration and stressed on the need for various agencies to work together for saving the environment. In her video Message from New Delhi Mrs. Kerpelman also spoke about the theme: Green Economy and the upcoming Rio conference on Environment.

Mr. A. A. Syed, Secretary General (MUNA) spoke about activities of Muna. He informed the audience about the various activities like observance of UN Designated international days, conferences, seminars, workshop, and highlighted about pollution in the city of Mumbai. He thanked and appreciated the ICGS services and the important role played by the ICGS for the nation. Mr. Syed also emphasized the role of MUNA Youth association and praised the members and President of Youth Association of MUNA Prof. Ashraf Ahmed Shaikh for his unique initiatives to observe World Environment Day with ICG on Ship. He praised the hard work and activities of MUNA youth.

Ms Mohini Mathur, Executive Chairperson MUNA delivered the key note address. In her addressed she elaborated the imbalance between nature and man and further said the survival of mankind is in danger.  “With ice glaciers melting, forest disappearing, climate change and global warming the earth is on the brink of disaster. The need for industrialization and development cannot be denied for a country like ours however it is essential that the development should not at the cost of environmental decay”. She explained the various historical developments about conferences and meeting on Environment at international level to audience regarding various environmental issues in the present context. The selected audience at the observance included commanders and officers of the ICGS, activists, students and professionals from various walks of life.
The event also saw a presentation by DIG Kothari that highlighted the activities of the Indian Coast Guard in recent years in order to save the fragile marine ecology around the Indian coastline. The activities basically dealt with clean up operations undertaken by ICG after there were oil spills from damaged merchant ships and off shore platforms. He also threw light on the initiatives taken by ICG to sensitize the masses by holding educational seminars for schools children.

Prof. Ashraf Ahmed Shaikh, Hon. secretary, MUNA and President Youth Wing in his address on International Environment Law informed the audience about various treaties, conventions, statutes, regulations and common law, agreements and protocols on environment and stressed on sustainable development. He further addressed the audience on the role of United Nations for the steps taken and role of every individual and government. “The need for safeguarding the environment today so that the future generations can benefit from it just as we are today because we owe this land to our future generation ( i.e. billions of unborn) which we have inherited from our ancestors. He also stressed on the responsibilities of every individual towards the earth in general and suggested ways in which it could be achieved”. Prof. Ashraf Ahmed Shaikh in his address further said that “environment law draws from and is influenced by principles of environmentalism, including ecology, conservation, stewardship, responsibility and sustainability”. He said that “the pollution control laws generally are intended often with varying degrees of emphasis to protect and preserve both natural environment and human health and the role of judiciary in interpreting those laws.”

The programme witnessed an elaborative presentation by DIG Donny Michael who dealt with the legal aspect of the marine environment damage that was being caused by unscrupulous ships that were responsible for polluting the sea and elaborated various international agencies available for redressing and compensating the marine damage and loss. He also pointed out to the absence of a proper redressal channel in the country that allowed polluters to get away scot free in some cases.

The highlight of the programme was a debate between ICG officials and the members of civil society on “Environment Protection Consciousness in India- Is it still in nascent stage or achieved critical mass.” which was Moderated DIG NV Narasimha and Prof. Adv. Ashraf Ahmed Shaikh.. Governing council members,, MUNA Youth Members and other professionals participated in the debate which was extremely informative and lively. After fruitful discussion, the house was open for the audience to express their views on the subject. The debate lasted for about an hour.

Post completion of the debate, the pollution response equipment present onboard the indigenously built pollution control vessel ICGS Samudra Prahari were started and displayed to the participants. The Coast Guard officials also said that they were in the process of commissioning two more pollution control vessels that will deal specifically for oil spill response containing damage to the marine environment.

Active and enthusiastic participation was observed from ICG officers during the entire programme. It was felt from both ICG and MUNA that such activities may be conducted in future, so as to provide a platform for ICG personnel to interact with civil society and broaden their knowledge base on environment protection matters and update information on UN related activities such as RIO+20, UNFCCC, sustainable development and climate change. 

MUNA expresses its heartfelt gratitude to Ms Kiran Mehra - Kerpelman, Director United Nations Information Center (UNIC), for India and Bhutan, New Delhi, for sending a video recorded message specially for the aforesaid event which was played at the event on the given time schedule inspite of her busy schedule.

We in MUNA also  thank Mr. Rajiv Chandran National Information officer of United Nations Information Center (UNIC), for India and Bhutan, New Delhi and all the staff members for sending reading materials from New Delhi office at such a short notice which were distributed to the audience including members, staff and officials of ICGS. The support and guidance received from UNIC is commendable and appreciated by one and all and we wish to receive their continuous support and guidance in future too.   
The event was also registered with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and they have issued a certificate of appreciation which is attached herewith.