Basanti Ojha Chataut
The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. For instance, each year, marine plants produce more than a half of our atmosphere’s oxygen, and a mature tree cleans our air, absorbing 22 kilos of carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen in exchange. Despite all the benefits that our nature gives us, we still mistreat it. That is why we need to work on that. That is why we need the Observance on June 5.
June 5, World Environment Day (WED) is one of the biggest global events observed worldwide. On this day, millions of people across the globe celebrate & support the theme defined by the United Nation.
World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, resulting from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment. Two years later, in 1974 the first WED was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. Even though WED celebration has been held annually since 1974, in 1987 the idea for rotating the center of these activities through selecting different host countries began.
WED is the United Nations‘ principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment. First held in 1974, it has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging from environmental issues to marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach, with participation from over 143 countries annually. Each year, WED has a new theme that major corporations, NGOs, communities, governments and all celebrities worldwide adopt to advocate environmental causes.
World Environment Day 2020 will focus on Biodiversity and will be hosted in Colombia in partnership with Germany. The theme of World Environment Day 2020 is “Celebrate Biodiversity”, ‘With 1 million species facing extinction’, there has never been a more important time to focus on biodiversity.
Columbia has been chosen to host the global event theme of WED 2020 as it is one of the mega diverse countries in the world to hold 10% of planet biodiversity. Since it is part of the Amazon rainforest, Colombia ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in plants, butterflies, freshwater fish, and amphibians.
Biodiversity refers to the variety & variability of life on Earth. It is the variation of earth’s terrestrial, freshwater & marine species and as well as their habitats. Broadly speaking, it is the collection of species such as humans, animals, plants, trees, birds, water, and anything you can see on earth. Biodiversity is very important to maintain sustainable life & ecological balance on the earth. It provides food, water, and other necessary resources for the survival of species.
Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.
Human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit. It would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year. If we continue on this path, biodiversity loss will have severe implications for humanity, including the collapse of food and health systems.
The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Today, it is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by corona viruses; and about 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals or insects.
Nepal is observing WED since 1974. The then Prime Minister of Nepal Nagendra Prasad Rijal planted a tree sapling at the Godavari to observe this day in the mid-1970s.
On WED’s 2020 theme, Nepal’s richness in biodiversity has been maintained, from nearly a half-century, by establishing protected area system in the form of national parks, wildlife reserves, hunting reserve, conservation areas and buffer zones, including community forests which have also been instrumental in meeting national and international commitments on biodiversity conservation.
The environment ministry has been engaged in celebrating WED for over two and a half decades. Each year, the main function is formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister. Awarding prizes has been institutionalized. Climate change award is also offered on WED as per its provision on the Climate Change Policy. The Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists has continued to recognize a journalist for the best environmental news coverage. NGOs celebrate this day, as an ‘annual environmental festival’. Several events are organized country-wide and have been maintained as a ‘people’s day’. A number of people participate in sharing ideas, concepts, & information and make commitments for action.
Constitution of Nepal 2072, part 3, section 30 has confirmed Right to Clean Environment as a fundamental right for all the Nepalese people. According to this every citizen shall have right to live in a clean and healthy environment.
In spite of the untiring efforts of the government and people for nearly a half-century, Nepal’s biodiversity is continuously affected by anthropogenic activities such as infrastructures, fire, use patterns, and habitat loss, or destruction. The concept of ‘benefit sharing’ in protected areas and community forests has started benefiting people.
Human activities are some of the causes of environmental destruction. Overpopulation, industrialization, urbanization, deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, climate change, global warming, ozone depletion, noise pollution, marine pollution, etc are the major challenges to the environment nowadays.
Nature is sending us a message. The COVID-19 lockdown has proved nature’s self-assimilative capacity in making our environment clean, green and healthy and ensuring biodiversity conservation. The key message is to regulate anthropogenic activities that accelerated the destruction of ecosystems – aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems – and even extinction of species.
Let us hope that WED 2020 will bolster biodiversity conservation, encourage to using bio-medicines for curing ‘COVID-19’, and also encourage the communities at provincial and local levels for conservation actions.