It gives me immense pleasure to be amidst you today. I compliment Shri Dinsha J. Patel, Hon'ble Minister of State, Mines (Independent charge) and all those associated with organizing this ceremony to give away the prestigious National Geoscience Awards. I congratulate the distinguished geoscientists and researchers who are being recognized for their accomplishments and meritorious contributions in the field of fundamental and applied geosciences, mining and allied areas.
The significance of geoscientific information towards the sustainable development of our natural resources is well acknowledged. As we have gathered here to commemorate the achievements of our brilliant geoscientists from across the country, I am reminded of the traditional wisdom of categorising earth as one of the “ pancha mahabhuta” or 'five great elements' around which the cycle of nature revolves - the other four being water, air, fire and ether.
Earth occupies a unique position in the universe being the only planet with abundant resources and rich reserves of biodiversity to support sustenance of human civilizations over the centuries. However, with rising population, rapid industrialization and arbitrary exploitation of its resources, the delicate equilibrium of the environment and the ability of this beautiful planet to survive and thrive are under severe threat. Global warming and climate change have emerged as major challenges which are required to be addressed on priority.
The demand for all natural resources including minerals, water and energy has grown exponentially with sharp focus on locating new assets and developing those that have remained unutilized or untapped. We must recall what the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi once stated and I quote: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”. We have to sensitize the people as well as the Governments across the world about the necessity of protecting environment and precious resources of this earth by evolving technologies to balance the requirements of progress and conservation. For development to be sustainable, we must delve into our traditional knowledge systems in mineral exploration, mining and water recharge and identify alternative sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geo-thermal power, tidal energy and bio-mass energy from urban and agricultural wastes. We have to encourage use of indigenous and environmentally sound technologies.
Since ancient times, our country has cherished the ideals of living in harmony with our surroundings. Our traditions, customs and beliefs abound with legends which portray elements of the environment as deities. This deeply ingrained respect for our eco system has manifested itself in our Constitution which enshrines protection and improvement of environment as a fundamental duty of each citizen [Art 51 A (g)]. The Directive Principles of State Policy make it incumbent upon the state to preserve our environment (Art 48 A). Our supreme legislative authority, the Parliament, has always crusaded for this cause and has enacted several legislations like the Environmental (Protection) Act which provides a holistic framework for safeguarding it. We also have Parliamentary forums on Water Conservation & Management and on Global Warming & Climate Change for equipping members with information and knowledge on these key issues thereby enabling them to adopt a result oriented approach. Our Departmentally Related Standing Committee on Science and Technology diligently examines all proposed legislations to minimize environmental degradation.
While Government is taking policy initiatives for ensuring cleaner, renewable energy and low carbon sustainable growth, our scientists have a crucial role to play in guiding the country onto a path which is progressive as well as sustainable. R&D (Research and Development) has the potential to nurture technologies that are best suited to natural endowments. We have ample scope in ascertaining energy efficient methods of mining, process technologies as well as beneficiation of low-grade ores for higher and sustainable production of mineral resources.
I firmly believe that Science and R&D should be aimed at enhancing the quality of life of the common man including the poor and the weaker sections and lead to greater self dependence. Research should aspire to provide solutions to the long standing challenges of food, energy and water security to our countrymen. The availability of uncontaminated water, clean air and early warning about natural hazards are some of the areas of priority where your inputs will be invaluable to the nation. I am glad about what Delhi did yesterday about earthquake preparedness and how we should be able to cope with it. I think we should have these exercises more frequently and in other parts of the country. Policy and decision-makers must encourage geo scientific information and knowledge and strive to mainstream these measures into developmental plans and programmes. With the collective efforts of all stakeholders, we will definitely be able to resolve these issues of grave concern for the populace of our country.
I am happy to learn that the National Geoscience Awards are being conferred on the researchers who have done commendable work in diverse fields like development of groundwater resources, early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis and mineral discovery and exploration.
I once again extend my congratulations to the awardees for their accomplishments. I applaud Prof. Leelanandam who is the recipient of Award of Excellence for his lifetime achievements in the field of earth sciences.
I am delighted to find the names of three women among the geoscientists being awarded today. The National Geoscience Awards have, in fact, honored the achievers representing a vital segment of our society. I am sure, they will serve as role models and promote excellence in professional life. I wish them all success in their laudable endeavors.
I take this opportunity to thank Shri Dinsha Patel, Hon'ble Minister for inviting me and providing this wonderful glimpse of the geoscientific world.