Hon’ble Ministers, senior government officials, representatives of civil society, my
colleagues from UN Environment
Ladies and Gentlemen, Namaste
Let me start by reading the UN SG’s message for WED this year:
“Nature is sending us a clear message. We are harming the natural world — to our own
Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating. Climate disruption is getting
worse. Fires, floods, droughts and superstorms are more frequent and damaging. Oceans
are heating and acidifying, destroying coral ecosystems. And now, a new coronavirus is
raging, undermining health and livelihoods.
To care for humanity, we must care for nature. We need our entire global community to
Let’s rethink what we buy and use. Adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models.
Safeguard remaining wild spaces and wildlife. And commit to a green and resilient future.
As we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs — at the heart of our
On this World Environment Day, it’s time for nature.”
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
COVID 19 has sent shock waves around the world and shaken our societies and economies.
It’s destroyed lives, torn families apart and unleashed untold sufferings.
But in addition to its destruction, our COVID 19 lockdowns have given nature a pause, a
reprieve from destructive human behaviours.
Several times during the lockdown, my AQI read 17 or 20 – That’s like Swiss mountain
meadow air, in the middle of Delhi!
Birds, hundreds of them, including wild birds, have returned. I don’t have a garden but I
see nature coming alive all around me.
So, in the midst of COVID’s human sufferings and anxieties, Nature has been allowed to
breathe. And with that breath, she has brought wonderment and hope.
* * * *
The term “new normal’ is being used a lot these days, portraying both:
that things will never be the same again, and
that some things should not be the same again.
Among the things that should not be the same again is our pre-COVID destructive behavior
toward the environment.
We all know that the unhealthy relationship we fostered over decades was leading us
resolutely toward a dark abyss.
We know that the dominant global development model is unsustainable. It’s deeply flawed.
We know that in the urgency to kickstart national economies, we must use the opportunity
to do so qualitatively differently.
And we know what we need to fix. What priorities, policies, practices, what incentives and
disincentives, what approaches – we know it.
But will we do it? That is the question.
Here in India, I’ve been deeply impressed by the efforts made toward achieving the SDGs.
Big strides have been made. There’s no question about that.
On the environmental front, while the challenges are immense, so is the knowledge, the
capacity, the commitment of millions of people across the country.
And Indian society is steeped in ancient wisdom from centuries gone by that have taught
respect, reverence for the environment, for Mother Earth.
It’s my ardent hope that India’s recovery from COVID 19 will inspire the rest of the world on
this front. That India will demonstrate that economic development and environmental
preservation are not a zero sum game; that they can, indeed they must, go hand in hand.
India’s soft power is particularly effective.
Look at Yoga. Meditation.
Look at Ayurvedic medicine
Look at Indian Blue Helmets – India’s Peacekeepers
Look at Bollywood
Look at your authors, poets, musicians and much more
India has given the world so much. I hope that harmony between economic activity and the
natural environment can soon be added to this list. For India’s sake and for the world’s.
What other country has endowed the legal status of a person on a river” A few years
ago, the rivers Ganga and Yamuna were accorded the legal status of a person by an
Indian Court, which effectively means harming or polluting the river is equivalent to
harming a person 1 .
What other country can claim an elephant sanctuary that dates from 300 BC?
What other country’s ancient scriptures are so laden with timeless wisdom of the
interrelatedness of all living being?
India has shown the world the way on so many fundamentally important areas. Please
show us the way on this.
It’s time for Nature.
Thank you and happy WED.
1 The decision was later overturned by the Indian Supreme Court mainly on grounds that a
single state could not take administrative decisions regarding a river that crosses state
boundaries. However, it is contended that the ruling expressed an intention that changed
mindsets about the rivers.