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PRESS RELEASE: India Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network launched

October 15, 2012:

Hyderabad: Creative Commons Skasuga

Eleven of India’s holy towns and cities came together yesterday in Hyderabad, India, to launch the India chapter of the international Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN).

The meeting, which took place on the seventh day of the United Nations’ COP 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, was hosted by The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and ICLEI (Local governments for Sustainability group).

It brought together representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh cities of Amritsar, Bodh Gaya, Guntur, Howrah, Leh, Nanded, Rishikesh, Shirdi, Ujjain, Varanasi and Visakhapatnen. The India chapter joins an international network of nine green pilgrimage cities and places located across Africa, Asia and Europe.

“On any given day of the year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are on pilgrimage,” said Alison Hilliard, project manager for GPN at ARC. “The goal of the network is to encourage pilgrims, and pilgrim places throughout the world to become models of care for the environment and leaving a positive footprint on the Earth.”

The Green Pilgrimage Network aims to help different faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, based on their unique religious beliefs. The first India member of the GPN was Amritsar, which joined last November. It has already created a greening movement, called Eco-Amritsar, headed by Gunbir Singh, Chairman of WWF Punjab and supported by EcoSikh, an NGO launched in 2010.

Why India?

It is fitting that India should host the largest branch of the Green Pilgrimage Network, as nowhere else in the world has more pilgrim cities or greater numbers of pilgrims. The Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2001 was the largest human gathering in recorded history – attracting around 70 million people. Other pilgrim sites attract millions every year including 30 million in Tirupati, 30 million in Amritsar, and 1.5 million in Ajmer. Rishikesh, Varanasi and Bodh Gaya also attract a sizeable number of pilgrims.

Representatives from the government of Andhra Pradesh, including the Mayor and city commissioner of Hyderabad and the Honourable Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, endorsed the meeting and mentioned some of the greening initiatives already underway in the state, such as solar powered cooking for the 15,000 daily devotees at Tirupati.

“This new program being launched today is unique, in that it aims to bring together religions and local governments. I cannot think of a better place to have such a network than India. With religious sites in every corner of the country, India has a sacred geography that is inclusive of every major religious tradition in the world,” said the city commissioner of Hyderabad Mr. M. T. Krishna Babu in his opening speech.

Member cities agreed to meet again in 12 months time, when they will share sustainable solutions for pilgrim cities for greening waste, sanitation, buildings, transport, food and accommodation and share strategies to make the hosting of large scale pilgrimage more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Action

It is expected that the cities in the GPN India Chapter will:
  • Create a network of sustainable and earth-friendly pilgrim sites across India
  • Join an existing network of 9 international member cities
  • Create a theological basis for green pilgrimage for each religion
  • Encourage religions and municipalities to work with government agencies, NGOs and private companies including tourist agencies, hotels, restaurants and transport companies to make pilgrimage greener
  • Create plans for promoting sustainability in their pilgrimage city and along their pilgrimage paths
  • Ask and educate pilgrims to walk lightly and travel responsibly in the spirit of their religion
  • Inspire pilgrim sites to green their religious festivals
For more information please contact Gopal Patel of the Bhumi Project for Hindu sites at gopal@bhumiproject.org; Ravneet Pal Singh of EcoSikh for details of Sikh sites ravneet.singh@ecosikh.org, and Alison Hilliard at ARC on alisonh@arcworld.org

Links

News from the Sikh cities of Amritsar and Nanded.

Read press coverage of the Hyderabad meeting at the following links:

Times of India

Newstrack India

Yahoo News Singapore

News of other current environmental action by faith groups in India at these links:

Temples using solar power - Daiji News

India pilgrim centres going green - First Post

Green Kumbh Yatra launched in Hyderabad - The Hindu



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October 15, 2012:
PRESS RELEASE: India Chapter of the Green Pilgrimage Network launched
Eleven holy towns and cities in India came together yesterday to launch the India chapter of the international Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN). The meeting, which took place on the seventh day of the United Nations COP 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, was hosted by ARC and ICLEI.
Green pilgrimage network (GPN)
The vision is of pilgrims on all continents and the pilgrim cities that receive them, leaving a positive footprint on the Earth