November 2011- The Green Pilgrimage Network opened in Assisi, Italy this week. The large-scale effort organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation aims to bring religions together to improve the environment by reducing waste, conserving energy and water, and increasing vegetation and trees at sites that they consider historically or spiritually significant. The Sikh community representing Amritsar officially signed on, joining with ten other sites associated with the Baha’i, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Dao, Buddhist, Jewish and Shinto faiths.
“Religious sites sites which once had 1,000 people a week walking to them are now handling tens of thousands of people arriving by coach,” said Martin Palmer, ARC secretary-general, pointed out that hundreds of millions of people take part in various pilgrimages every year. “The impact can be seen in the surrounding environment, from the strain on water and food resources to the extra energy used and the additional waste and litter created.”
Amritsar has already began work toward a better environment, with the planting of 3.5 million trees in the district since 2007, with over 1 million planted in military cantonment areas numbering over 250 varieties under the leadership of Punjab Pollution Control Board head Kahn Singh Pannu.
The Amritsar District Commissioner has also been instrumental in introducing the eco-riksha in Amritsar and emphasizing the monitoring of pollution around Darbar Sahib, while the the Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) has installed a 2000L solar powered water heater over the Langar Hall at Darbar Sahib to promote the use of Green Energy as an alternative to fossil fuel based power.
The conference in Assisi, which aims to build on these successes began a from basilica of St Francis led by Royal Princess Michael, Duke of Kent. Leaders from the world religions wearing traditional robes and attires joined the procession. The Sikh religion was represented in the procession by S. Dalmegh Singh, Secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) along with Mr. Kahan Singh Pannu, IAS, Chairman Punjab Pollution Control Board PPCB, Dr. Rajwant Singh, President EcoSikh from Washington DC and Ravneet Pal Singh, EcoSikh Project Manager from India.
Sikhs at the gathering recited the hymns from Sohila Sahib from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, signifying the importance of nature in our reverence for the Divine.
The vision for Green Amritsar is to join other efforts by the world’s major religions and commit their energy to a sustainable, healthy future for the next generation. According to Palmer, “Today, every major religion takes ecology seriously and is involved in environmental projects, and the world’s religions are increasingly recognized as playing a pivotal role in protecting the natural world.”