National Cadet Corps (NCC) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the presence of Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on September 22, 2022 to tackle the issue of plastic pollution and achieve the universal goal of clean water bodies through ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’ and ‘Tide Turners Plastic Challenge programme’. The MoU was signed between DG NCC Lt Gen Gurbirpal Singh and Resident Representative, UN World Food Programme Mr Bishow Parajuli. Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar; other senior officials of Ministry of Defence and representatives of UNEP were present on the occasion.
Describing ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’ as one of the noblest initiatives, the Defence Secretary, in his address, lauded the efforts of NCC in making the campaign a grand success. He asserted that 1.5 million NCC cadets have the ability to influence the thinking of youth across the world, exuding confidence that they will be instrumental in making the campaign a mass movement. Dr Ajay Kumar thanked the UNEP for extending its support to NCC for the campaign, stating that “it is our collective responsibility to protect the environment for future generations to live a long and healthy life”.
Pillar of India’s climate change resolve
The ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’ is among the slew of initiatives taken by the Government to realise the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, which he referred to as ‘Panchamrit’ during the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, COP26, held in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 to November 13, 2021. The Prime Minister had presented five nectar elements as India’s unprecedented contribution to deal with climate change. These are:
- India will take its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
- India will meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
- India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now till 2030.
- By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by more than 45 per cent.
- By 2070, India will achieve the target of Net Zero.
The NCC had, on December 01, 2021, launched ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’, a nationwide flagship campaign, initially for one month, to clean sea shores of plastic & other waste material, while raising awareness about the importance of cleanliness. It was subsequently extended as a Pan-India round-the-year campaign to cover rivers and other water bodies as well.
The NCC, the largest uniformed youth organisation in the world, mobilised its cadets to collect plastic and other waste material. The campaign gained tremendous momentum, acceptance and participation following its launch. Different Ministries and organisations, including Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Department of Science & Technology, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Sainik School Society, Army Welfare Education Society, Border Roads Organisation and National Highways Authority of India have extended their support to the NCC in this noble cause.
Since the launch of ‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’, over 100 tonnes of plastic waste have been collected from nearly 1,900 locations by more than 12 lakh NCC cadets, alumni and volunteers, impacting 1.5 crore people. Of the approximately 100 tonnes of collected plastic waste, more than 60 tonnes have been handed over for recycling.
‘Puneet Sagar Abhiyan’ – a Tide Turner
Following the growing support and success of the campaign, the UNEP, engaged in this initiative through their ‘Tide Turner Challenge Programme’, decided to join hands with the NCC, with the aim to leverage the youth organisation’s strengths. The UN body has the mandate and knowledge base for addressing various issues relating to environment, including plastic pollution and has a programme for engaging youth.
The aim of the MoU between NCC and UNEP is to synergise and collate efforts towards engaging youth for promoting clean water bodies. The objective is to engage in capacity building and awareness on environmental sustainability through information sharing and training initiatives; promote opportunities for NCC cadets to participate in appropriate national & international platforms related to environment and climate change and engage in and develop joint initiatives of mutual intent pertaining to environment and climate change. The MoU, to remain in force for a period of three years, aims at consolidating, developing and detailing their cooperation and effectiveness to achieve the common objectives in the field of environment.