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Sania Mirza addressing guests at the event at India Pavilion on Sunday at Expo 2020 Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ace Indian tennis star Sania Mirza in Dubai on Sunday urged people to take small steps for the environment such as recycling, sharing cars, walking and opting out single-use plastic.

Speaking at an India Pavilion event at Expo 2020 Dubai, organised to promote the green initiatives of Mumbai-based Bhamla Foundation, Mirza said caring for the environment starts with small steps that eventually make a huge difference.

Mirza joined celebrity Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra for the announcement of the ‘Urban Forests and Climate Change Project’ by the foundation, which was founded by Asif Bhamla.

Revealing the project

After taking part in a sapling plantation ceremony along with the Consul General of India in Dubai Dr Aman Puri (who is also Deputy Commissioner-General for India at Expo 2020 Dubai), and Mohammad Sarhan, vice-president, India and Nepal, at Emirates Airline, Mirza unveiled the project, which has Bollywood actor Tiger Shroff as the brand ambassador.

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Sania Mirza (left) taking part in a sapling plantation ceremony at India Pavilion

In her speech, Mirza said it does not require a huge personal effort to care for the environment and reduce pollution. “I mean, it’s very simple and basic things that we don’t think usually about… But if we actually put an effort into it, it would make a huge difference as a whole. I’m very excited and honoured to be a part of this occasion and also to be a part of this movement because I do think that it is very important to speak about this and to try and bring as much attention as possible,” she added.

A mother’s concern

Mirza, 35, who lives in Dubai with her husband, Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, and their three-year-old son Izhaan, said: “Now that I’m a mother, I obviously worry about the future of children… and the future of my child. And of course I want him to breathe cleaner air. I want him to have a better life, lifestyle; a cleaner lifestyle and I think this is the only way to go forward.”

Malhotra, who has been a long-term supporter of the environmental campaigns organised by the Bhamla Foundation, echoed that there must be conscious efforts to protect the environment by reducing paper usage and wastage of fabric. “The environment is ultimately what we breathe and we live in and we all have to be conscious of it,” he said.

‘Our common home’

Dr Puri said the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 pandemic “has actually made us realise even more that we share the planet which is our common home, which is a shared home and we are all interdependent. Either we are all safe…either we are all doing well, or none of us can be safe”.

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(from left) Dr Aman Puri, Manish Malhotra and Sania Mirza at the event on Sunday Image Credit: Supplied

He added: “That is the message which I think we must bring into environmental conservation. And we must convert this crisis into an opportunity where we get the countries to collaborate more… where we get the communities to collaborate more, so that we can find new ways and means of taking care of our environment.”

Hundreds of start-ups

He said India Pavilion has introduced many start-ups that make sustainable contributions to the world. “Over the six-month period, we are bringing upwards of 500 start-ups, some of whom will be bringing amazing ideas in energy and environment conservation.”

Dr Puri added that environmental conservation has been part of the Indian culture. “In India we use the term ‘mother nature’, which reflects the deep bond we have with nature and of course, it has also been enshrined in the [Indian] Constitution. Article 51 AG says that it’s the duty of every citizen to take care of and to improve the environment. So I think it reflects our intentions very clearly.

“At the COP26, [Indian] Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearly laid out India’s vision of how India would be contributing to this global good and of course it was something which the whole world had to take notice of…that India is walking the talk and what is very important is, as the government of India and India as a country, will make its contribution as we are home to 18 per cent of the world population.”

Supporting forests and sustainability

Meanwhile, Sarhan emphasised how Emirates has been trying to reduce its carbon footprint by adopting various eco-friendly measures and promoting sustainability in the aviation industry. He said the airline also supports worldwide wildlife organisations to protect the wildlife.

Bhamla said he found a no bigger platform than the Expo for promoting the messages of environment protection. “The Expo itself is promoting sustainability in multiple ways,” he pointed out. “When it comes to the environment, the youth have shown tremendous concern about recreating a sustainable and pollution-free planet.”

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Guests during the project's reveal at India Pavilion Image Credit: Supplied

The campaign by the Foundation aims to create man-made urban forests amidst concrete jungles and promote the culture of sustainability to mitigate climate change.