More than 300 environmentalists – among them professors, students, scientists and religious leaders – gathered for the 5th International Eco Conference organized by the Church of South India.
The conference, held in Chennai, India from 1-4 August, explored the theme “Greening the globe for sustainable living”. Participants learned about models of sustainable living, life-threatening forces, relevant ecological ministry, and interfacing with vulnerable communities. Indigenous systems of medicine, agriculture, energy conservation, and waste management were constantly considered.
Several universities and colleges, along with the World Council of Churches (WCC) eco-justice team, jointly organized the conference under the auspices of the Department for Ecological Concerns of the Church of South India.
Dinesh Suna, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network, highlighted the importance of water for sustainable living. He drew attention to the Chennai water crisis. Chennai almost encountered its “day zero” – running out of water – this year, with no signs of rain.
He highlighted studies that suggest, by 2035, the population of Delhi and Chennai will increase by 52% and 47% respectively. Wetlands, water bodies and even rivers have been encroached upon in India today. Out of the two dozen water bodies and wetlands that once existed in Chennai, only nine exist. Studies also suggest by next year 21 major cities of India will run out of groundwater. Suna emphasized that agriculture and food is responsible for 70% of freshwater usage.
Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, said: “We all have needs, but we can only fulfill this by treading respectfully on our Mother Earth and by striving for justice and peace. We are also mandated to listen to and protect the marginalized – the indigenous peoples, Dalits, women, and youth – who hold the key to a sustainable future.”
Kurian noted that more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity of the world is protected and sustained in the 22% of the lands inhabited by indigenous people “who are the custodians of the world biodiversity.”