New Delhi [India], Nov. 4 : "India is an important part of my agenda right now", says former Norwegian Minister of Environment, Erik Solheim, the new Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme.
Solheim recently visited India, attending the Versova beach clean-up event in Mumbai and speaking at the World Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi.
In a brief conversation with the Norwegian Embassy, Solheim stressed the importance of countries like India to lead the fight against climate change.
Emphasizing that if the world views environmental issues as an opportunity for growth rather than an obstacle, a huge step in the right direction is taken.
"UN Environment needs to be much closer to the people. If the people in the streets are not interested in environmental issues, we will fail", he said. He further added that the guidelines and legislations must come from the politicians, but the importance of Indian businesses cannot be underestimated.
There is no more efficient way to deal with waste disposal and logistics then to view it as a valuable source of income.
Solheim noted that if he was asked what should India focus on, development or environment, his answer is yes to both, India cannot afford to choose.
"There is such an opportunity to create green workplaces for millions of Indians, and that is the main thing the country needs," he added.
"India is an important part of my agenda right now. That is why I spent a fair amount of time here. It is of grave importance to be present in the country while dealing with the environmental issues we face.
India is a vast, culturally diverse sub-continent and there are multiple concerns to deal with. In the north, we see way different problems than in the south. We are also concerned about Indian rivers, their pollution level being on an all-time high. Most communities and settlements in India exist along the main rivers." "We need to focus on environmental issues close to people's hearts.
For example, pollution is one of the main causes of death in the modern world. People smell and feel pollution in the big cities of the world every day. For India with so many million-inhabitant cities throughout the country, this is a problem close to the heart.
This is an example of an issue closer to people than the climate, but the fortunate thing is if we attack pollution, we also make huge strides on climate change with the same means.
Another area Solheim is committed to is cleaning up the world's oceans. "We have to tend to this matter immediately; we can face a situation where we have the same amount of fish as plastic in 2050 if we continue as we do now.
Coral reefs are one of the most endangered natural areas we have, these reefs are vital to the oceanic eco-system." UNEP has been a relatively small player in the Indian political landscape, but then again most international organizations are in India.
However, UNEP experiences a genuine interest for its work in the region. During his visit, Solheim also met with respective Ministers in the Indian Government from departments of environment, railways, air and energy.
"In cooperation with these ministries, we will deal with these issues in a mutual beneficial relationship", he concluded.