India is set to be this year’s global host for World Environment Day on 5 June, with ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ as the theme, Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan and United Nations under-secretary-general and head of UN Environment Erik Solheim, jointly announced here on Monday.

Harsh Vardhan said for India, World Environment Day, 2018 is “not a symbolic celebration, but a mission”.

Union environment secretary C K Mishra, and Solheim, signed a Letter of Intent to host World Environment Day (WED) in India this year. ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, the theme for WED 2018, urges governments, industries, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and reduce on an urgent basis the production and excessive use of single-use plastic that pollutes oceans, damages marine life and threatens human health.

WED is celebrated to re-dedicate national efforts for sustainable development, to bring environmental concerns into the mainstream of the national developmental effort and also to bring people to the forefront of environmental conservation.

“India is excited to host the World Environment Day this year on 5 June,” the environment minister said. “Indian philosophy and lifestyle is rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed towards making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Solheim said, “India will be a great global host of 2018’s World Environment Day celebrations. The country has demonstrated tremendous global leadership on climate change and the need to shift to a low carbon economy.

India will now help galvanise greater action on plastic pollution. It’s a global emergency affecting every aspect of our life. It is in the water we drink and the food we eat. It’s destroying our beaches and oceans. India will now be leading the push to save our oceans and planet.”

Terming plastic a serious menace, Harsh Vardhan emphasised that the ministry itself must take the lead in discouraging the use of plastic. “It is the beginning of the end of plastic menace,” he said.

The minister invited people to take care of their Green Social Responsibility and urged them to take up Green Good Deeds in everyday life. Reiterating that Indians have learnt to live in harmony with nature from their ancestors, Harsh Vardhan emphasised that for India, environmental issues are not merely technical issues, but moral issues and a movement for the future generations.

Speaking on the occasion, Union minister of state for Environment Mahesh Sharma said protection of environment is the call of the day, it is the call of humanity. “As a doctor, I understand the predicament that pure air in Delhi and several other smart cities would be,” Sharma pointed out.