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Speech of His Excellency Shri. Balmiki Prasad Singh, Governor of Sikkim on the occasion of World Environment Day  on 5th June, 2012.

I am extremely pleased to be here amidst you on this important occasion of 40th anniversary of the World Environment Day. Each year on 5th June, this day is celebrated worldwide to raise global awareness about environmental conservation.

The Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department of the Government of Sikkim, has been organizing this programme with great zeal and enthusiasm in the State every year. This is done by involving the policy makers, planners, local people and school children together for better and improved understanding of the need to take appropriate and imaginative action to safeguard our forests and ecology.

It is well known that Sikkim is the nerve centre of biodiversity in the Eastern Himalaya and is one of the significant ecological hotspots of the world. This special feature of Sikkim has attracted environmentalists and conservationists, scholars and commentators, among others. We may mention the names of Lionel De Niceville, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Henry John Elwes, Salim Ali, Udai C. Pradhan and Hiroshi Hara, in this regard.

The theme for the World Environment Day for this year is GREEN ECONOMY: DOES IT INCLUDE YOU? The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has appropriately chosen this theme.

The Green Economy aims to secure improvement both in human welfare and social equity, while significantly reducing prevailing environmental risks and ecological threats. In other words, a Green Economy can be perceived as an economic environment that achieves low carbon emissions, resource efficiency and at the same time is socially inclusive.

The second part of the theme - “DOES IT INCLUDE YOU?” seeks to bring about a positive attitude among us towards environmental issues. It would like the concerned individuals and their groups to become active agents for bio-diversity and natural resource conservation. We must recognise that we cannot continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity.

The governance system in our State accords high priority to ecological issues. We have some of the most innovative programmes like the State Green Mission and Ten Minutes to Earth. Grazing in forests has been banned. We have protected areas in the form of Biosphere Reserve, National Park and Sanctuaries in our State. Participatory Rural Appraisal Techniques provide for a choice of species for plantation. Through Joint Forest Management, equitable sharing of revenues between Forest Department and communities has been institutionalized.

I am particularly fond of 10-Minutes to Earth programme launched by the State Government.  It secures participation of every Sikkimese in planting of a sapling on 25th June every year. Our achievements under this programme have been commensurate with our targets. I would like to advise the State Government to also invite prominent citizens from outside the State who are working for development of the State to participate in this programme. This would include people of the Armed Forces, scholars, teachers, industrialists, traders  and even tourists.

The Forest Survey of India, in their report for the year 2011 has acknowledged an increase in the forest cover in Sikkim. We are one of the few states in India to achieve this, in spite of immense pressure on land for various developmental activities.

Global Warming is one of the gravest threats facing mankind today. Most scientists and researchers worldwide are of the view that global warming is going to increase at an uncontrollable rate in the very near future. This would cause massive climate changes throughout the world. Such challenges need to be tackled head on. They have to be mainstreamed into our developmental process.

In this context and particularly in Sikkim, it becomes necessary to ensure that we adopt scientific and traditional measures to strengthen our natural resource base. Our natural resources are our strength and therefore no effort should be spared to further conserve it. It is our bounden duty to keep our environment clean as our livelihoods critically depend on it.

We need to work towards promoting Sikkim as a preferred Ecotourism destination in India. A harmony is to be fostered between people, environment, conservation and development. The involvement of local communities in Ecotourism would support their livelihood needs and reduce dependence on natural resources. This would consequently give them a direct stake in the conservation of local culture, ecology and environment.
The World Environment Day is a people’s event. Love and respect for nature has always been a part of our ethos and culture.

One of the striking things in Sikkim is that the people have abiding faith that Mt. Khangchendzonga is a part of our sacred geography and its purity and surroundings need to be preserved.

The people of India have long viewed ecology in terms of the cosmos. One of our Sanskrit Sholakas declares ‘Mata Bhoomi Putro Ahaamn Prithvyah’ ( the earth is our mother and I  am son of the world). Such beliefs abound in our scriptures and folklores. The World Environment Day rightly calls upon each one of us to look at Nature as an integral part of our well-being. This day provides an opportunity to set-up a new course towards a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human wellbeing.

I am sure all my fellow Sikkimese would realise the need to work with zeal and vigour towards a healthy and sustainable environment. And they have to play their role in Green economy. For it indeed includes every one.
My warm regards and best wishes to all of you.

JAI HIND

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