“It is indeed a matter of great pleasure for me to be amongst the officer Trainees of the 2018 batch of Indian Forest Service. I am also extremely happy that we have two young Officer Trainees from Bhutan here with us today.
I welcome you all to Upa Rashtrapati Bhawan!
Forestry has always held a very special place in Indian ethos and culture. For us, forests are not merely resources. They represent much more. They are the cultural, spiritual and intellectual heritage of the country.
The task of protecting our natural forests falls upon the Indian Forest Service, one of the three All India Services constituted under the All India Service Act, 1951.
You have been given with the mandate of implementing the National Forest Policy, in order to ensure the ecological stability of the country, through the protection and participatory, sustainable management of natural resources.
It is a noble task, it is a prestigious task and above all it is an onerous task.
I take this occasion, to congratulate each and every one of you for choosing this profession.
Today, the traditional role of forester has changed radically. He/she is entrusted not only with the sustainable management of forests but also empowerment of the people, who depend on forests.
As the custodians of our national treasure, you have a vital role to play in striking a fine balance between development and environmental conservation. This balance is necessary for the inclusive and sustainable development of a fast growing nation like India.
My dear young officers,
You have the mandate of protecting and nurturing the biodiversity of one of the 17 mega-biodiverse countries of the world.
India accounts for 7-8 percent of the world’s recorded species. The way we manage our natural resources plays a decisive role, not only in protecting our biodiversity but also global biodiversity.
Each region, each ecological area throws a different challenge and as young forestry officers, you should equip yourselves with the knowledge and skills to deal with these challenges.
The National Forest Policy aims to our tree cover from 23% to 33%. In order to achieve the target, we will have to give a huge thrust to the afforestation programmes in our country.
I also ask you to place special emphasis on preserving the forests of the North Eastern region of India which has been consistently losing tree cover over the last 18 years.
My dear young friends,
A number of species of flora and fauna are now facing the threat of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation and reckless exploitation. Loss of biodiversity may trigger large, unpredictable and disastrous changes in the ecosystem that will adversely impact all life on earth.
At least 10 per cent of India's recorded wild flora and some of its wild fauna are on the list of threatened species. We cannot let this continue. Biodiversity is a vital resource that needs to be assiduously conserved as it holds the key to life itself.
The fragile eco-systems such as coastal areas, hills and mountains, wetlands, deserts, shifting cultivation areas need to be conserved in order to sustain the livelihood of a large number of people, apart from ecological benefits they bring.
Over the last few decades, the world has woken up to the threats to the very survival of mankind due to environmental degradation, depletion in forest cover and climate change.
Forests, being one of the most effective carbon sinks, may be the most potent way to reduce the rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the consequent threat of global warming.
India is a key player in the world in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and it is one of the big countries in the world in terms of population and economy.
So, India must become a world leader in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss and create a model for other nations to follow.
We have already made significant progress towards conservation goals. The results of the tiger census released recently, which estimated that the number of tigers in India has increased from 1411 in 2006 to 2,976 in 2018, are indeed heartening.
This accomplishment is an eloquent testimony to the skill, commitment, capability and dedication of our foresters.
Being a Forester, your task is not easy one. The challenges before you are complex and the expectations from you will always be very high.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “What we are doing to the Forests of the World is but the mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and one another”.
Let this talisman of the Father of the Nation guide your words and deeds as you advance in your career.
I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours.