The first Earth Day was organized on the 22nd of April in 1970 and mobilized millions of people to support environmental protection through joint actions and demonstrations. In the US, it led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and several other environmental laws . Since then, Earth Day has grown to become a global phenomenon. With more than a billion people celebrating the event each year, it is the largest secular observance in the world . The theme for Earth Day 2017 is “Environmental & Climate Literacy”, and it is the second time that Cambodia celebrates Earth Day. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) hosted the celebration in cooperation with several partners, including USAID and the NGO Forum on Cambodia. The event was organized on the 28th of April 2017 and true to the spirit of Earth Day as a day of action, it involved the planting of mangrove trees as a part of a reforestation program in a fishing community located in the coastal area of the Kep province. More than 500 people, including representatives from government line departments, local authorities, communities, students, NGOs and development partners, attended the event.
The event has contributed to increase people’s capacity and knowledge of climate change and encouraged them to step forward through action. Youth participation has been a particular focus, as the young generation needs to play an active role for environmental protection in Cambodia. The campaign hopes to not only educate and inspire but also advance policies geared towards defending our environment and accelerating green jobs and technologies. During the event’s opening session, H.E. Khut Chandara, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, delivered a poignant speech to reaffirm that the objective of Earth Day is to inspire people to pay attention to the causes and impacts of climate change and encourage people to work together to address and mitigate environmental risks to the benefit of everyone. H.E Ken Sotha, provincial governor of Kep, expressed his interest in the theme and objectives of Earth Day 2017 and his gratitude to the Ministry of Environment for selecting Kep province as the location of the event. This year’s theme is part of a campaign calling for working together to decrease earth’s temperature through reforestation. Planting mangrove trees is thus part of natural resources conservation in our costal areas, and Kep province has been selected as a champion of a clean environment by regional institutions. During his keynote address, CSOs representative Mr. Hok Menghoin, Environment Program Manager of The NGO Forum on Cambodia, informed the participants that Cambodia is classified as a highly vulnerable country due to climate change. Cambodia has been affected by climate change in the form of increased temperatures, floods, droughts, etc. Climate change thus poses a severe threat to communities and their livelihoods and food security, as more than 75% of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas, and most of them rely on the agricultural sector.
At the end of the event, all participants joined together to plant mangrove trees. By committing to adhere to joint action plans to increase people’s awareness of climate change and strengthen communities’ roles to protect forests and natural resources, we thus hope to have successfully mobilized people and public stakeholders to participate in Earth Day every coming year.