Kochi (Kerala): Hundreds of activists, students and members of NGOs Wednesday joined India`s leading ecologists in saluting conservation evangelist M.K. Prasad to mark the World Environment Day here.
Octogenarian Prasad, popularly known as MKP, was instrumental in saving the Silent Valley tropical rain forest in this southern state during the 1970s by spearheading a national movement against a hydro-power project in the fragile bio-diverse hotspot in Idukki district, about 140 km from this port city on the Malabar coast.
In a fitting tribute to the yeomen services Prasad rendered to protect the rich flora and fauna heritage in the state, 98-year-old former Supreme Court judge and constitutional expert V.R. Krishna Iyer honoured the evangelist on his 80th birthday and released a Festschrift, a collection of articles and essays on environment and society, by green experts.
"Though I am very old at 98 with poor eyesight and hearing, I came to the event venue to personally greet Prasad and acknowledge his contribution to the environment and his inspiring guidance to generations of social activists, students, ecologists, naturalists and NGOs," Iyer said, raising his voice that drew thunderous applause and standing ovation from the packed hall.
Among the experts who participated in the event and spoke on Prasad’s dedication to the noble cause were Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director general Sunita Narain, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India`s former chief executive Dilnavaz Variava, Sanctuary Asia editor and veteran naturalist Bittu Sahgal, Western Ghats ecology expert panel chairman Madhva Gadgil and former chief conservator of forests M. Manoharan.
"I am touched and moved by the occasion though the credit goes to the fraternity and the large community that dwells in the midst of nature in harmony with its flora and fauna," an emotional Prasad said later on the margins of the event.
Being a leading green brigade voice, Prasad made environment meaningful to the people by voicing their concerns and representing India on global flora, including the UN-supported Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, WWF for Nature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature during his hey days.
As the guiding spirit behind the reputed grassroots environment voluntary group -- the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), Prasad strengthened the integrated rural technology centre at Mundur in Palakkad district and helped it innovate a non-conventional energy device for rural households.
Currently Prasad chairs the programme advisory committee of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation`s agro-biodiversity centre in Wayanad and serves as a member of the governing council of the Centre for Environment Education and of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.
Celebrating the global event, the Green Media Group also held a day-long seminar on ‘Environment and Society: The India Challenge’ on the occasion.
"Successive governments found in Prasad a rare talent and spirited energy to undertake environmental action programmes that resulted in people-friendly initiatives by the governments," said seminar chairman P.S. Easa.
As a renaissance man, Prasad also led institutions like the Information Kerala Mission where his touch for a layman`s concerns resulted in a slew of grassroots initiatives by the central and state governments.
As an annual event, the World Environment Day is held globally under the aegis of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to spread awareness on preserving the world`s rich biodiversity.
The world body has chosen `Think-Eat-Save` as this year`s theme to minimise food waste and food loss and ‘Think before you eat and save our environment’ as the year`s slogan.
"In view of the wide disparity in lifestyles and the resultant disturbing effects on the environment, the 2013 theme encourages all to become more aware of the environmental impact of food choices we make and empowers us to make informed decisions," the UNEP said on the occasion.
Established in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the first World Environment Day was celebrated in 1973 and is hosted every year by a different city. India was the host of World Environment Day in 2011.