World Environment Day

Updated: Jun 05, 2011, 14:23 PM IST

Philaso G. Kaping

World Environment Day was introduced to bring about positive action regarding preserving and safeguarding the environment. It is celebrated on June 5 every year and is hosted by a different city with a different theme.

India is the Global Host of World Environment Day 2011 and this year`s theme `Forests: Nature at Your Service` was chosen to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, and in support of the UN International Year of Forests initiative.

Forests: Nature At Your Service

Forests cover about 30% of the total global land area and perform functions which are vital to the existence of life on this planet. They provide renewable raw materials and energy, protect land and water resources, maintain bio-diversity, alleviate climate change, provide recreation facilities, improve air quality and provide livelihood to millions of people.

Functions of Forests

Forests protect and form natural resources. They are home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects on Earth.

Forests shape the planet`s landscape. They create and maintain soil fertility and control the erosion of soil. Forests prevent and check flash floods and regulate the rate of surface run-off of water. They feed our rivers and are essential in supplying water to the largest cities. They also help to allay the devastating effects of natural calamities.

Forests are the green lungs of the Earth and are essential in stabilising world`s climate. Through photosynthesis, forests renew oxygen supply in the atmosphere by absorbing carbon-dioxide. Forests are considered as `carbon sinks` as they can absorb and store carbon over a long period of time. They also help in absorption of solar heat during evaporation and transpiration.

1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. People living in villages in and around forest areas depend on forests for their food, shelter and clothing. Drugs for some of the deadliest and virulent diseases are found in forests.

Deforestation is a major cause of worry. Every year, 13 million hectares of forests land is destroyed, mainly for conversion of forests to agricultural land due to increase in population, rise in illegal trade practices like logging.

Destruction of forests creates many environmental disasters like altering local rainfall patterns, accelerating soil erosion, causing the flooding of rivers and threatening many species of flora and fauna with extinction.

Economists have expounded integrating the values of forests into the budgets of countries and businesses alike. Forests have the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets. 10 million new jobs could be generated with targeted investments in forestry.
In 2004, trade in forest products was estimated at USD 327 billion.

2011 WED Host Country India

India is a country with huge biological diversity and forest cover but with increasing population, the pressure on the environment is enormous. Clearing of land for cultivation and grazing of animals has greatly reduced forest cover. Destruction of wildlife habitat and desertification is rampant, leading eventually to loss of flora and fauna.

The Indian government has come up with many projects to mitigate various environmental and it’s accompanying socio-economic problems. India has introduced projects that track the health of the nation`s plants, animals, water and other natural resources. It has also introduced systems to combat land-degradation and desertification to protect agricultural land like tree-planting, windbreaks and shelterbelts.

Under the afforestation programme, any diversion of public forests for non-forestry purposes is compensated through afforestation in degraded or non-forested land.

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which has generated three billion working days-worth of employment, benefiting close to 60 million households, underwrites at least 100 days of paid work for rural households to invest in water conservation, irrigation and land development.

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