Meaningful celebrations

Friday, 6 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

World Environment Day is a time for tree huggers – literally. More than 2,000 people, mostly students wearing their school uniforms, gathered in Nepal’s capital on Thursday in a bid to set a world record for the largest tree hug. Parliament members, office workers and even Buddhist monks also took part in the attempt, joining the students at a park on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The participants said they were trying to set the record to celebrate World Environment Day by spreading awareness about the importance of trees. Organisers insisted the goal is to set a new world record and at the same time spread the message that trees are important for the environment and everyone. The previous Guinness World Record for most people hugging trees simultaneously was 936 people in Portland, Oregon, last July. Participants on Thursday held trees for two minutes as volunteers beat drums at the National Martyrs and Peace Park, on the northeast edge of Kathmandu. In India Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to utilise natural resources and said that the Government’s effort and people’s participation can help bring about a cleaner and greener planet. Continuing his presence on Twitter, Modi noted: “Let’s serve as trustees, where we utilise our natural resources for the present and at the same time ensure happiness of future generations.” In another tweet, he added, “Along with Government efforts, people’s participation can make a big difference in creating a cleaner and greener planet.” The Prime Minister said that World Environment Day is a day to bow to Mother Earth and to “reaffirm our pledge to protect the environment, making our planet cleaner and greener”. Sri Lanka meanwhile took a more sombre approach to the whole affair, battered by flash floods, but did hold a ceremony presided over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. What the day showed strongly is the lack of a cohesive policy regarding environment and its meaningful implementation in the island. The region and Sri Lanka has frequently been experiencing disaster prone weather extremes such as droughts, floods and cyclones. Predictions by global studies on climate change suggest that both intensity and frequency of such extreme events are likely to increase in the future. As a significant population of the country is directly dependent on weather-reliant livelihoods such as agriculture and fisheries, adverse changes in weather patterns could lead to chaotic conditions. Among the community groups that are more vulnerable to climate change impacts are residents in coastal areas, rain-fed farmers in the dry zone, fishing community, workers in the estate sector and small-scale producers of export crops. Climate change is a complex challenge and well-designed policies for adaptation are necessary to face the impacts of it. Adaptation is a dynamic process of adjustment in response to changing conditions of climate. A pragmatic approach towards adaptation policy has to fulfil a few essential steps. These include identifying and evaluating likely impacts of climate change; assess vulnerability/adaptive capacity of key stakeholders; identify major gaps that affect effective actions against impacts; and, appraise alternative strategies for overcoming gaps so that the country can adapt to impacts in a successful manner. Awareness is important but celebrations of World Earth Day should not stop there.