India shares ‘urban forestry’ plans for UN World Environment Day

This week’s United Nations World Environment Day has called attention to the need for tree planting and proper forest management across the globe, citing ‘urban forestry’ as its new buzzword.

The event is held each year in a bid to boost awareness about the need for environmental protection and to call for action to put that protection into place.

The theme for this year’s event, which was held on 5 June 2016, was to ‘Go Wild for Life’, which highlighted the need for healthy, well maintained forests and other habitats to be carefully preserved.

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests in India Prakash Javadekar urged his country to ensure they focused on tree planting over the course of this year and beyond, in order to create a global oxygen bank. The government has said that urban forestry — the need to increase the planting of trees across more than 200 cities across India — is its new “thrust area” and confirmed that it would soon be embarking on a major plantation drive.

“The theme of World Environment Day today is to save the wild animals, to stop brutality on wild animals and to try to support them. We are working on it today,” Mr Javadekar said. Mr Javadekar also burnt polythene bags at the event in order to send a message to attendees about the damaging nature of plastic on the environment.

A green rally was also arranged by the Pollution Control Board in Visakhapatnam, which saw hundreds of people and members of Parliament take to the streets to call for a cleaner natural environment.

India is home to four of the top 10 cities in the world in terms of air pollution, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization, which measured the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms that was identified in every cubic metre of air. New Delhi, which was ranked as the 11th worst city in terms of air pollution, was found to have an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122.

As well as trying to push for less pollution, Mr Javadekar also took the opportunity to outline India’s plans to stamp out illegal poaching activities in protected forests across the country. He confirmed that India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States in order to ensure that an anti-poaching mechanism is created and developed. Mr Javadekar said that there would be zero tolerance towards illegal wildlife trade in the country.

Using Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) just outside Mumbai as an example, the environment minister said that 35 leopards and a host of other animals used the forest as their home, a peaceful haven close to the densely populated city.

“SGNP is a perfect example of human-wildlife harmony. There are so many tribal pockets, rich wildlife; yet, there has not been an instance of man-animal conflict in the park. This is a case of human-wildlife harmony that has been made possible by many efforts and it will continue in the future as well,” said Mr Javadekar.

India’s forestry ministry also added that forests would be enhanced to ensure animals were nurtured, confirming that there would be “water and fodder augmentation in urban forests and wildlife sanctuaries”.

GWD Forestry spokesman James Barrett said: “There is no doubt that focusing on enhanced tree planting will prove to be a positive thing for not just the cities all across India, but also for the forests themselves and for the wildlife that calls those forests home. Ensuring a renewed focus on the natural environment in a country that is home to four of the biggest hubs of air pollution in the world, is something to be celebrated.”

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