The UN established June 5th as World Environment Day in 1972. Each year, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), also established in 1972, uses this day to promote awareness of environmental issues and action on behalf of environmental protection.
Environmental degradation is one of the most serious threats facing our planet in the 21st century. Climate change, mass extinction, and the degradation of soil, water, and natural habitats are threatening the earth’s capacity to support the ever-growing human population. The Himalayan region is a precious, ecologically-important part of the planet. Snow-melt from the Himalayas provides water for much of Asia. It is a glacial, forested region that must be protected from contamination and human encroachment.
It is common in urban India for litter to end up on the streets, in the gutters, and in the fields, forests, and other natural environments. Litter, mostly packaging of consumer goods, is just one side-effect of a convenience-oriented, disposable global culture which must change if we are to preserve the ecosystem from deterioration. It is especially important in India, a country that is undergoing rapid growth and industrialization, to spread the value of environmental awareness.
Tibetans find in McLeod Ganj a haven and a second home, while pilgrims and tourists come from all over the world to enjoy its beauty and cultural diversity, and to visit the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As we benefit from and enjoy this place, it is important that we show our respect for it, and do our part to protect its air, water, soil, and forest.
On June 5th, Lha community members gathered in the bus station of McLeod Ganj—the centre of town—and Lha staff and volunteer teachers wore posters in English and Tibetan languages announcing the cleanup. Free copies of the Tibetan-language book on environmental issues written by Lha’s director, Ngawang Rabgyal, were distributed. The volunteers then split into two trash-collecting teams, one cleaning Jogiwara Road and the other cleaning Temple Road. The cleanup thus covered the two dirtiest and most heavily-trafficked streets of McLeod Ganj. Some volunteers collected recyclables which were later dropped off to the Environment Office. Others collected dry trash, which they deposited in dumpsters.
In a message to the public on World Environment Day, United Nations Secretary Ban-Ki-Moon said, “The theme of this year’s World Environment Day – ‘Your planet needs you’ – is meant to inspire all of us to do our part… Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose we can make a tremendous difference.”