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View from India: Earth Day's 50th anniversary

Image credit: Hotshotsworldwide | Dreamstime.com

Today (22 April) marks five decades of Earth Day. 'Climate Action' is the theme for this year’s Earth Day. Technology, with its massive outreach and scalable solutions, will help fulfil this vision.

The Earth Day Network, established in 1970 in the USA as a unified response to an environment in crisis, is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement. Its official website captures the spirit, stating that this year, on 22 April, Earth Day goes digital.

Earth Day Network works with more than 75,000 partners in over 190 countries to drive positive action for our planet. In India Earth Day Network engages with the Earth Day Network India (EDN) Trust, established in 2010. EDN conducts programmes across  India to reach out to as many people as possible, from the grassroots to policymakers.

One of the Earth Day Network's initiatives is Trees4Earth, which aims to encourage people to plant a tree for each individual on the planet – that would be 7.8 billion trees – by 2020. So far, over 900 million trees have already been planted in India alone since 2016.

Climate Action, this year’s vision of Earth Day, is reinforced through a combination of technologies and connectivity. Tree cover, plants and vegetation, for example, can all be monitored through tablets, smartphone apps and GPS (Global Positioning System). Specialised tree-management software with Geographic Information System fed into tablets, for instance, will throw light on the number of trees and collect data for accurate monitoring of their growth. Simulation will help determine the manner in which the roots have spread and their wellbeing.

Plastic is another focus area for the Earth Day Network. There's a skewed ratio between the amount of plastic waste generated and the amount of which is recycled. India generates approximately 5.6 million tonnes of plastic waste annually; #EndPlasticPollution focuses on reducing plastic use as well as managing the huge amounts of plastic waste. 

Several partnership campaigns have been initiated, including some religious sites being declared 'No Plastic Zones'. Likewise, Mumbai’s Juhu beach has undergone a cleanup. Plastic waste can be broken down into reusable components or road construction materials, for example, if the concept of waste-to-energy plants is propelled forward with incentives from the government.

EDN endeavours to protect endangered species from extinction. India is home to over 91,000 species of animals and 45,000 species of plants, of which close to 1,000 feature on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

EDN has spread awareness and has supported efforts on the ground. Endangered species can be monitored with smart collars, particularly in situations where they move out of their natural habitats and wander towards human-populated areas. The sensors will trigger alerts about their movements and human-animal conflict can be reduced, as well as warning and educating humans about predators. 

For EDN, Earth Day is every day and programmes – conducted with government agencies, the corporate sector, academic institutions, NGOs, media houses and the general public – are ongoing throughout the year.

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