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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the presence of UN chief Antonio Guterres and other world leaders, on Tuesday, September 4, inaugurated the Gandhi Solar Park and Gandhi Peace Garden at the UN Headquarters during the Gandhi@150 commemorative event marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and India’s global leadership in renewable energy.

The special commemorative event ‘Leadership Matters: Relevance of Gandhi in the Contemporary World’ was hosted by Modi to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

In his keynote address at the event, Modi spoke about the contributions of the Father of the Nation to the cause of greater human freedom in the 20th century, his emphasis on the welfare of all (Sarvodaya), championing the cause of the downtrodden (Antyodaya) and prescient concern for environmental sustainability.

“Whether it is climate change or terrorism or selfishness in public life, Gandhiji’s ideals are the guiding light for us when it comes to protecting humanity. I believe the path shown by Gandhiji will lead to a better world,” said Prime Minister Modi.

Addressing the event, UN Secretary-General Guterres also said, “Gandhiji’s vision and philosophy are pillars of the work of the United Nations. Part of his genius lay in his ability to see the inter-connectedness and the unity between all things. His political achievements included leading the movement that ended colonial rule in India, using peace, love and integrity to prevail. But his vision went far beyond politics to encompass human rights and sustainable development.”

The UN chief said Gandhi’s efforts on behalf of the people of lower caste and those considered untouchables , whom he renamed Harijan or Children of God , should inspire us in our efforts to leave no one behind, and to help those farthest behind first.

“Gandhi looked at the world from the point of view of the lowliest and the most humble but is acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders of all time. His values truly transcend borders,” he added.

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“We have issued our own United Nations stamp to commemorate this occasion, but we are in the company of more than 100 countries that have issued or are planning to issue stamps to honour this global leader,” Guterres said.

 “Never has there been a symbolic Indian effort at the UN of a tangible nature, which impacts every country. The UN always talks about renewable energy, it always talks about climate action, climate change. By this small effort, we show our willingness to go beyond the talk,” said India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin.

“There’s a massive change in perception about India globally, and the Gandhi Solar Park at the UN headquarters symbolized that. India has demonstrated leadership in the sphere of renewable energy over the last few years and there has been a dramatic shift in India’s position in the UN climate talks over the past five years, and it has moved from being a laggard to a leader,” said Harjeet Singh, the global lead on climate change for Action Aid, who is in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit.

The Gandhi Solar Park is a first of its kind symbolic Indian effort at the UN that highlights India’s willingness to go beyond the talk on climate change and climate action.

At a contribution of about USD 1 million, India has gifted solar panels that have been installed on the roof of the UN Headquarters here, one panel each for every 193 UN member states.

The Gandhi Peace Garden’ is an innovative initiative under which the Consulate General of India in New York, Long Island-based NGO Shanti Fund and the State University of New York – Old Westbury have entered into an agreement to plant 150 trees.

It is dedicated to the memory of Gandhi and is a crowd-sourced project, with people adopting trees in memory of their loved ones. The garden is in an open site within the 600 acres campus of the University.

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The solar panels are powered up to reach the max of 50 KW of generation power. Energy generated in the park is equivalent to energy that would have been created through the use of 30,000 kilograms of coal. It also has a carbon sequestration of 1000 seedlings which will grow into trees over 10 years.

On the occasion, a special UN Postage stamp on Gandhi’s 150 years was also released.

The global leaders spoke about their leadership challenges and how in the contemporary world, Gandhi’s values have inspired each of them in challenges they have faced in their political lives, when they were in office or outside as leaders.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were present at the inauguration of the 50-kilowatt Gandhi Solar Park and the Gandhi Peace Garden.

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