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India turning green
05 February 2010
by Anoj Chhetri, UNV Programme Officer, New Delhi

New Delhi, India: India is a rapidly developing country where a billion plus people live, but paradoxically many of them with a huge gap in living standards.

The environment they live in is a major concern for the Government, the UN and other many development organizations. Low literacy rates, poverty, changing lifestyles and rapid industrialization are reasons for climate change, pollution and other impacts of global warming. This is why UNV India has always accorded a top priority to environment and climate change through our voluntary actions.

Following the 2009 IVD theme 'Volunteering for our Planet', UNV India has been tirelessly making all possible endeavours to make IVD 2009 a grand success. It has already organized several events from June 2009 beginning in the Indian capital Delhi in collaboration with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering).

UNV India organized a training programme for 50 university volunteers who are conducting environment-related functions at various places. UNV India has also inspired more than 100 university graduates to volunteer for our environment, particularly to raise awareness of people on using energy efficiently.

The drive was organized in various housing societies in Delhi. Students organized street plays and dramas and raised awareness on conservation of fuel, water and electricity amongst households. This event took places in many parts of Delhi for many days. The Delhi Tourism Board supported the events in June and July 2009.

The 'Green Orissa' campaign was launched in Orissa in July amidst boundless enthusiasm, hope and promise to make Orissa green through volunteering efforts. The campaign was launched in a Government Girl's High School to promote tree plantation as a first step to meeting the challenges posed by climate change.  

UNDP Deputy Country Director Mr. Bengt Messing and Orissa State Capital Mayor Mr. Anant Narayan Jena inaugurated the event jointly in a brief function. A prominent newspaper The Hindu, among many others, covered it well.

Other major companies such as Airbus also showed interest in the campaign in order to replicate this model in other parts of India. Online volunteers took part in designing the campaign logo. The UNV field office based in Orissa facilitated the process and recognized online volunteers’ work. This campaign will continue for many months and years.

UNV India is a lead agency in organizing informal meetings with various organizations involving volunteers. In 2009, it organized more than 10 such meetings involving UN, media, NGO and Government representatives. It has developed a collaborative project with resources of $ 70,000 committed by many sources. The contribution from UNV India is $ 4,000. However, the events that took place in India cost more than $300,000.
 
This collaborative project included a school programme which entailed 30 workshops in 30 schools with 'Volunteering for our Planet' as the central theme. The program targeted Grade 9 students across schools in Delhi and showcased the work of community volunteer heroes. VSO India has also extended resource support for the school programme.  

The mega event on 5 December received support from many organizations. The event brought together thousands of citizens of Delhi for a massive Yamuna River clean up along with musical performances by renowned artists like Terra Naom and Indian Ocean. NDTV, a powerful television network in India, covered the entire project interviewing UN Resident Coordinator Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot. The Government of India also extended solidarity to the event.

In the financial capital of India, Mumbai, the TATA Power Company Limited organized IVD events with the technical support of UNV India. UNV India organized a planning workshop in Mumbai in the first week of November 2009 involving corporate volunteers and developed a full scale plan for IVD 2009. It awarded and recognized corporate volunteers with certificates.

Similarly, a SAHER Team organized environment education and interaction in Mumbai with the technical support of UNV India.

A separate collaborative project with civil society members was already in place under the leadership of the People’s Institute for Development and Training. It was designed for recognizing students who participated in a photography, painting and poster competition. More than 500 schools participated in the competition. The theme of the competition was 'Capture climate change'.

UNV India coordinated a signature campaign for 'Seal the Deal' and 'Volunteering for our Planet'. It organized the event on the occasion of UN Day on 23 October. UN agencies, NGOs, private companies, diplomats and Government representatives expressed solidarity and participated in the signature collection campaign. UNV volunteers also took part in the signature campaign online. A link was created in the Country Office website. National UNV volunteers who are working all over India took part in various events related with IVD 2009.

The Times Foundation, an NGO, is coordinating the publications of a book on the environment. Cambridge University Press will publish the book which will include an article by the UNV Programme Officer, as approved by UNV, on 'Harnessing Volunteerism and Active Citizenship for Environmental Sustainability'.

In conclusion, UNV India put together all possible efforts and resources in close coordination with various types of like-minded organizations to mark IVD 2009 following the given theme 'Volunteering for our Planet'.  

India, where a billion plus people live with such gaps in socio-economic condition, will make a dent in protecting our planet through voluntary actions of various natures equivalent to millions of dollars in monetary value.

Our involvement consistently in coordination, programme formulation, monitoring and resource mobilization, remained very fruitful and learning events, both from organizational viewpoints and at personal end. It is believed that our tireless efforts will be counted in the overall process of sustaining our generations to come.