Earth scientists – building blocks for sustainable world

Earth scientists – building blocks for sustainable world


Dr Harsh K Gupta
National Committee for International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE)

Why IYPE and what are the initiatives taken by IYPE to reduce the risks caused by natural and humaninduced hazards?

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), a series of activities related to the Planet Earth have been envisaged during the triennium 2007-2009, namely, International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE, 2007-2009), International Polar Year (IPY, 2007-2008), Electronic Geophysical Year (EGY, 2007- 2008) and International Heliophysical Year (IHY, 2007). IYPE is a worldwide programme supported by more than hundred countries, and has also been endorsed by the United Nations (UNO). It is an ambitious initiative to utilise knowledge acquired by earth scientists across the globe to build safer, healthier and wealthier societies for our future generations. IYPE has ten planned themes. One of them is ‘Hazards – minimising risk, maximising awareness’. A number of programmes, specially outreach, are taken up to educate school children, teachers and citizens about natural hazards.

How successful has IYPE been in bringing various stakeholders like governments, industry and scientific community onto one platform? How does it work together with these sectors?

It has been very successful. It has provided a platform for interaction amongst different science organisations, departments, NGOs in India for science and outreach activities. It may also be happening in other countries.

In India, IYPE started with a mega event ‘Indian Science Congress 2007’ on the focal theme ‘Planet Earth’, in which more than 5000 delegates participated from all over India and across disciplines. This Congress is unique in the sense that Hon. President and Prime Minister of India addressed the scientists and it is attended by many politicians and policy makers. Both the President and Prime Minister of India emphasised the significance of earth system sciences and its relevance to the mankind.

What is the role of earth scientists in building a sustainable world?

We are facing a few major global problems: Crunch in energy resources, drinking water problem and more serious is the assessment of impact caused due to manmade changes on the planet earth and its environment. Here is the role of earth scientists to deliver in building a sustainable world. Unfortunately, we have not given due importance to earth science studies, even after realising the fact that our existence is due to the earth and its environment.

Talk of earth sciences and we can’t stop talking about geospatial technologies. How do you think together, they can be used to achieve sustainability of the planet

In the recent years, geospatial techniques have contributed enormously in mapping and management of earth resources. Therefore, geospatial techniques play a vital role in the earth science studies and appropriate interpretations.

What are IYPE’s plans to do to achieve its objective to build safer, healthier and wealthier societies? After two years of operationalisation, what are the successes IYPE could achieve and what are the challenges ahead?

One of the principal objectives of IYPE is to bring awareness about planet earth to common man and policy makers, which has been largely achieved through its outreach programme. Several countries across the world, including India, have special IYPE events. Its success story reaches up to primary schools, a back bone to the future societies.

Challenges are manifold. On one hand, it has to promote active science plan for preservation and appropriate use of meagre resources and on other hand, bring that science to society. It is easy in the developed countries but a major task for countries like India.

Can you enumerate on the activities of the Indian chapter of IYPE? How is the response from the stakeholders?

India has been very active right from inception of IYPE. A national coordination committee was constituted in late 2006 to ensure appropriate participation by India in the international endeavours at an early stage ( This committee has helped in evolving the plan and approach to initiate and strengthen the science and outreach programme of International Years. In addition to the national initiatives, several NGOs, scientific societies and government organisations are actively participating in popularising the science and outreach objectives of International Years. Easily understandable publicity material on earthquake, tsunami and storm surges has been generated in vernacular languages to be distributed to the general public. The Indian Chapter of IYPE has organised an all India student contest as a part of the international student contest. The response has been quite good. India and China were the only countries that sent five students to GLE.