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Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, gestures while addressing the audience at a symposium on World Environment Day in New Delhi, India.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Calling the World Environment Day celebrations in India “historic”, UN Environment chief Erik Solheim has said by announcing that it will phase out single-use plastics by 2022, India has demonstrated global leadership.

During an event to celebrate the WED-2018 on June 5 in New Delhi, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022.

“WED was truly historic. As global host, India took charge, organising hundreds of events around the country, from beach and river clean ups, to awareness-building efforts with young people,” Solheim told PTI.

“By announcing that the country will phase out single-use plastics by 2022, India has demonstrated global leadership and it’s now up to other countries to follow India’s lead,” the UN Environment chief said.

Recalling that he was honoured to be present when Prime Minister Modi signed on to the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, he said the programme will be stronger with India’s support, sending a clear message to other countries.

“While I know implementation is a challenge, I have absolutely no doubt that India will succeed and this will have a major impact on the world,” Solheim said.

He previously said the WED will be a call to action and leadership and asserted India is the “perfect” place for that to happen.

World Environment Day celebrations began in the national capital and across India with the start of this month.

The pan-India events included cleanliness campaigns by state governments, cleaning of 24 beaches and 24 rivers in 19 states.

The UN General Assembly has designated June 5 as the World Environment Day to commemorate the opening of the Stockholm Conference on Human Development. Annual celebrations on World Environment Day began in 1974.

The theme of WED-2018 is Beat Plastic Pollution.

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