New Delhi, Nov 19: President Pratibha Patil today conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for the year 2006 on Nobel Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan renowned for her contribution to the field of environment. Giving the award, Mrs Patil commended Ms Maathai for her passionate commitment to the protection of the enviroment and added that her contribution to development and women's issues was praiseworthy. Present on the occassion were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
The President said Prof Maathai is no stranger to India for she was earlier this year given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 2005.
Mrs Patil said the history of human race is full of triumph and achievements made in the quest for knowledge and in search for better life.
Mrs Patil eulogised the contribution of Indira Gandhi, saying that the ideals and vision of the Prime Minister was as much relevant today as during her lifetime. She has been the source of inspiration for many women in India and the world over.
She said Ms Maathai 'Green Belt Movement' has succeeded in planting 300 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion.
She is now spearheading the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign.
"I am hopeful that India will contribute to increasing the forest cover on the Planet. We will be launching a major afforestation programme called 'Green India' for planting trees in six million hectares of degraded forest land. This will probably be one of the world's largest afforestation efforts in recent times." Quoting Ms Maathi, Mrs Patil said she had called for "giving back to children a world of beauty and wonder".
"For this to be achieved all the citizens of the world would have to work collectively, all stakeholders would need to join hands in adoptiong eco-friendly practices", Mrs Patil said. .