GIWA joins UNICEF India at the UNCCD-COP14

Faith Leaders Join Hands with the United Nations and Government Of India to Pledge for Water and to Take Climate Action at the UNCCD-COP14: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

DELHI: An important and vital interfaith panel brought together HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Founder/Chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), Core GIWA Faith Leaders Maulana Mahmood Madaniji, Secretary General, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and Sardar Paramjit Chandhokji, Chairman of Delhi Gurudwara Bangla Saheb. The session was chaired by Secretary General of GIWA Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji and was the grand finale of a high level UNICEF Event entitled Achieving Climate Resilient Results for Children at the UNCCD-COP14: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification at the India Expo Centre in Noida.

The event included several panels and discussions exploring the nexus between Land, Water, Food and Livelihood Security. The esteemed panelists included: Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, many senior representatives in the UNICEF India Office, Dr Manu Gupta , Co-Founder SEEDS, Lokendra Thakkar from EPCO, M.P., Dr. Abhilaksh Likhi, IAS, JS, Ministry of Agriculture Farmers Welfare, Government of India, Prof. Vimal Mishra, IIT Gandhinagar, Prof. Vinod Sharma Vice- Chairman, Sikkim disaster management Authority and Prof. IIPA, Dr. Saxena, IAS retired. Consultant, WFP and many others.

Sadhvi Bhagawatiji set the tone of the valedictory panel by sharing, “A large part of what’s happening to our land, water and air is in our hands. We speak so frequently about our dire global water shortage, global land shortage and global food shortage however what we are suffering from most is a global consciousness shortage. If we raise our consciousness and therefore change our behaviour and choices, we will be able to take care of all other shortages.” In response to the beautiful children who had opened the event sharing their concerns and fears, she said, “If we took even 25% of the time that we spend working to give our children money and opportunity and spent it working for water, we could give our children not only financial security but also a healthy planet with clean water, air and soil.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji emphasized, “Mother Earth is sacred. She does not need us but we need Her. She can survive without us, but we cannot survive without Her. Therefore protecting the Earth, our air, our water and our land is essential for us and our future. If there is No Water there will be No Peace. When there is More Water there will be More Peace. This is the reason we are bringing faith leaders and faith based organisations together in GIWA to lead and be the change that is needed in the world. We have just undertaken a week of Hariyali Yatra across several places of India planting thousands of trees, bringing communities together and inspiring millions to plant at least 11 trees during this monsoon season. We all must act and we must act now- for this our togetherness is key.”

Maulana Mahmood Madaniji shared, “We must create a world where we have a cleaner environment both outside as well as inside of ourselves. It’s the pollution in our minds that creates hate in our communities and pollution of our environment. I strongly believe that in order to make sound decisions of our future we must connect with the real leaders and those who are most affected by these decisions. This is why GIWA is working on the ground to bridge the gap and address the lack of awareness and education. We are committed to working together and actually working on the ground and with the communities, the farmers, the women and the children to bring a brighter and more sustainable future for all.”

Paramjit Chandhokji shared, “In honour of Guru Nanak’s 550th Birth Anniversary the Seven to Eight Lakh students of the Delhi Gurudwara Bangla Saheb and its affiliated schools and universities have applied a new green policy to have each student plant 10 trees during this monsoon season and after 3 years they will each get additional marks. If each of us can take such green and innovative steps we might not be able to fix the whole problem but at least we can take significant steps towards the solution.”

The faith leaders lauded the children and youth representatives who shared their thoughts on their unease “around lack of action on global frameworks” despite “high frequency and intensity of shocks and stresses of the environment due to changing climate patterns (climate change).” The youth also demanded for environmental sustainability, access to safe drinking water, food, livelihood security. SSP Female Farmers and Water Harvesters from MP were also invited during the sessions to add their voices to those of the youth by introducing key elements and outcomes of two good practices that have been able to break sectoral silos and build community.

The event ended on a high note as the faith leaders brought the entire audience to their feet, got everyone to raise their hands and then led a pledge for a safe and sustainable future for all.

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