Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asserted that his government firmly believes in the path of sustainable development and is ensuring that growth happens without harming the environment.
He also said India is one of the few countries whose actions are compliant with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the rise in temperature below two degrees Celsius.
Addressing the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) at Gandhinagar via video, he said India has been championing climate action based on the values of conservation, sustainable lifestyle and a green development model.
"My government firmly believes in the path of sustainable development. We are ensuring that development happens without harming the environment," Modi said.
India, the Prime Minister told the conference, has been traditionally practising the mantra of 'Athithi Devo Bhava'. "This has been reflected in the slogan theme for the CMS COP 13 -- 'Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home'," he said.
India proposes to strengthen its bonds with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit countries. This would be in sync with the Indo Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI), wherein New Delhi will be playing a leadership role, the Prime Minister said.
He also said India will hold presidency of the Convention for the coming three years and has prepared a national action plan to conserve migratory birds along the 'Central Asian Flyway'.
Several protected areas in the country share common boundaries with other nations, he pointed out, pitching for cooperation in conservation of wildlife that could lead to positive outcomes.
The number of protected areas increased from 745 in 2014 to 870 in 2019 with an area coverage of nearly 1,70,000 square km, the Prime Minister said, adding, the range of "our initiatives include ambitious target of 450 MW renewable energy with push towards Electric Vehicles, smart cities and conservation of water".
"For ages, conservation of wildlife and habitats has been a part of the cultural ethos of India, which encourages compassion and co-existence... India is one of the most diverse countries of the world. With 2.4 per cent of the world's land area, it contributes about 8 per cent of the known global biodiversity," Modi noted.
The Prime Minister said the critically endangered bird - the Great Indian Bustard - which is also the mascot of COP 13, has also been the focus of India’s conservation efforts.
"The Great Indian Bustard, a critically endangered bird, has also been at the focus of our conservation efforts. As part of the captive breeding programme, nine eggs have been successfully hatched from the wild.
"This has been accomplished by the Indian Scientists and Forest Department with technical assistance from International Fund for Houbara Conservation, Abu Dhabi. "We have, therefore, made the mascot 'GIBI- The Great’, as a tribute to the Great Indian Bustard," he said.
Speaking about four biodiversity hotspots, the Prime Minister said India is blessed with diverse ecological habitats. "India is blessed with diverse ecological habitats and also has four biodiversity hotspots. They are - the Eastern Himalayas, Western Ghats, Indo-Myanmar landscape and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
"In addition, India is also home to around 500 species of migratory birds from across the globe," he said.
Talking about tiger population in India having gone up, he called upon tiger range countries to come together to strengthen the big cat's conservation.
The number of tiger reserves has increased from nine since its formative years to 50 at present, Modi said. He said at present India has the distinction of having a population of almost 2,970 tigers and that India has achieved its target of doubling the number of tigers two years before the committed date of 2022.
"I call upon Tiger Range Countries present here and also others to come together to strengthen tiger conservation through sharing of benchmark practices," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said during its presidency, India would actively work towards conservation and an action plan has been prepared to protect migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway.
"India is part of the Central Asian Flyway for migratory birds. With a view to conserve the birds along the Central Asian Flyway and their habitats, India has prepared a 'National Action Plan for conservation of Migratory Birds along the Central Asian Flyway'.
"India would be happy to facilitate preparation of action plans for other countries in this regard. We are keen to take the conservation of migratory birds to a new paradigm with active cooperation of all the Central Asian Flyway Range Countries," he said.
The PM said he wishes to establish an institutional mechanism for undertaking research, studies, assessments, capacity development and conservation initiatives by creating a common platform.
He also mentioned about the Project Snow Leopard to protect the species in the upper Himalayas.
"India recently hosted the Steering Committee of the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Programme of 12 countries, which resulted in New Delhi declaration envisaging development of country specific framework for snow leopard conservation.
"I am happy to share that India would be taking a leadership role in promoting Green Economy including conservation of mountain ecology with people's participation," he said.