"It is a pleasure to be here today on this momentous occasion. I congratulate Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) for having instituted these novel awards which identify and honor outstanding individuals and institutions that have made significant contribution to protect and conserve the valuable resources of our planet.
I am glad to note that the RBS has initiated several projects for communities who live inside or in the proximity of important forest and wetland ecosystems. Among their initiatives, one on Chilka lake has been recognized by the UN for using enterprise as a model for making the communities as stakeholders in the conservation of a globally important wetland ecosystem.
In the ecologically important region between Kanha and Pench National Parks, RBS have joined hands with UN Climate Adaptation Fund and Government of Madhya Pradesh to restore the biodiversity of the region and to build the adaptive capacities of 175 villages.
I am told that RBS actively encourages its 15000 employees in India to undertake community development work.
I compliment RBS on this outstanding display of commitment towards protecting the environment.
My hearty congratulation to the winners of this year’s RBS Earth Heroes Awards.
Your deeds, creativity and the energy are truly exemplary. I hope the excellent work done by you are shared widely so that they motivate many others to take better care of the environment.
India has a great tradition of venerating nature as summed up in this popular verse from the Yajur Veda.
“Om dyauh śāntih, antariksam śāntih, prithvi śāntih, āpah śāntih, osadhayah śāntih”
(Let there be peace in the skies, in the space, on the Earth, in the waters, and the herbs and trees.)
Peace comes through equilibrium and balance. Ecology gets disturbed if there is reckless over-exploitation.
In this context, we all should remind ourselves of the relevant observation of Mahatma Gandhi that the ‘earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not every man’s greed.” This beautiful planet of ours, the Mother Earth, has sustained life for more than 4.5 billion years and will be able to sustain us for many more millennia if we are careful, if we are not excessively greedy.
Friends, Nature has inexorable laws. If we have to survive we need nature to protect and nourish us. That is why the ancient sages have called earth as ‘Dharithri’ or the one who sustains us. We have to take care of it so that it takes care of us.
Today we face threats to our survival as a planet on a scale that was never before anticipated.
This beautiful, fertile, abundant planet of ours is at a great risk. Unchecked and unbalanced development, rapid and wasteful extraction and consumption of natural resources, thoughtless waste disposal, excessive use of fossil fuels and rapid deforestation are ravaging this planet.
It has been estimated that every year, we extract 55 billion tons of fossil fuels, minerals, metals and bio mass from the Earth.
The world has already lost 80% of its forests. If the current rate of deforestation is kept up, 5-10% of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade.
27% of our coral reefs which are critical ecosystems for the survival of hundreds of species, have been destroyed.
Billions of plastic bags are made each year. Of these bags, one hundred billion are thrown away, with less than 1 percent finding their way into a recycle bin.
The end result of this is around 1 billion birds and mammals dying each year by the ingestion of plastic.
The air in our cities have become un-breathable. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) global air pollution database released in Geneva, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations.
9 out of 10 people in the world are said to breathe polluted air, suffering from serious health consequences.
It is baffling, but it has been estimated that we are using up 50% more natural resources than the Earth can provide at this point.
Here in our country we have been feeling the impact of environmental degradation and climate change with a steadily increasing frequency.
The number of extreme weather events have gone up at an alarming pace, the recent floods in Kerala being a warning sign to us.
The dangers are not limited to floods. Intense heat waves and cold waves have become a regular occurrence in India, killing thousands of people. Drought has damaged crops, causing starvation.
Another concern for India is its depleting water resources, especially in urban centres. Friends, There is a great need to rethink and redefine development. We need a paradigm that combines development with sustainability.
It is time to take a stand. It is high time we took firm action.
We cannot compromise on development.
But we can surely change the way that development is carried out.
It is my firm belief that development and environmental conservation are not mutually exclusive goals. It is possible to achieve development while protecting the environment.
It is heartening to note that India has already taken firm steps towards ensuring sustainable development.
Our Prime Minister was recently presented with ‘the champions of the earth award’ by United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) for his unprecedented pledge to eliminate all the single-use plastic in India by 2022 and for his pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance.
India has firmly stuck to its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement of 33-35% reduction in emission intensity from 2005 levels and is setting an example to the world.
India is on a mission to enhance its renewable energy capacity by 2022 to 227.6 GW.
We are cleaning up our rivers and are deeply committed to afforestation.
Swachh Bharat has also become a rallying call for a societal mission on cleanliness and hygienic and healthy lifestyle.
It is said that we have not inherited the earth from our ancestors but have borrowed it from the next generation.
We are creating our future today.
I am happy that, we have this evening amongst us, a few such individuals who have shown how the future can be created in small but significant steps.
I compliment each one of them on their efforts and achievements.
We need more such heroes, more of such spirited individuals who care for the environment.
Ours is a vast country with complex challenges but infinite opportunities.
What we do in India can change the global landscape.
We should join hands to make our country and our planet a more livable place.
I am very pleased that Royal Bank of Scotland has taken this excellent initiative.
It is my fervent hope that his ‘Bank’ that manages money and wealth will continue to contribute to the management of the enormous wealth that nature continuously provides humanity.