World Environment Day 2019: Significance, theme and history

World Environment Day 2019: Significance, theme and history
On this World Environment Day, let's pledge to beat air pollution. ©Shutterstock

As we celebrate World Environment Day today, here is all you need to know about its inception and importance.

Written by Aarshi Sharma |Published : June 5, 2019 11:18 AM IST

Every year, the World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on 5th June to spread awareness about the impact of nature pollution and motivate the global community to protect mother Earth. This is a United Nations initiated global campaign that is being celebrated for decades now. Since its inception in 1974, the initiative has become more widespread through these years. Now, about 100 countries celebrate World Environment Day.

Significance of World Environment Day

There are various types of environmental pollution. However, air and water pollution hit us the worst. Global warming, contamination of the food chain and a series of diseases and conditions are the most prominent consequences of these two types of pollution.

Air pollution gives us severe respiratory diseases, asthma being the most common ailment. It also increases our risk of developing cancer and heart ailments while disrupting our immunity, neurological, endocrine and reproductive functions.

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Water pollution, on the other hand, impacts the marine ecosystem contaminating our oceans. This, in turn, affects our food chain, exposing our fish and seafood to toxins like lead, mercury, cadmium. When these toxic components sneak into our body, we become vulnerable to various disorders. These include neurological damage, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure, respiratory disease, gastro-intestinal disorders and cancer, among others.

So, we need to protect the environment to save our own lives. World Environment Day is celebrated to send this message across. Every year, one country hosts the official celebration of this day. The official celebration highlights some specific problems and urges the global leaders to take action accordingly. This year's host is China.

Theme of World Environment Day 2019

Every year, World Environment Day is celebrated with a particular theme that focusses on a particular environmental concern. This year the theme is 'Beat Air Pollution'. Through this theme, the United Nations wants to emphasize on the need for serious conservation efforts. Here are the themes of the previous years along with the names of the host countries.

1974 Only One Earth- United States

1975 Human Settlements - Bangladesh

1976 Water: Vital Resource for Life- Canada

1977 Ozone Layer Environmental Concern; Lands Loss and Soil Degradation - Bangladesh

1978 Development Without Destruction - Bangladesh

1979 Only One Future for Our Children Development Without Destruction - Bangladesh

1980 A New Challenge for the New Decade: Development Without Destruction - Bangladesh

1981 Ground Water; Toxic Chemicals in Human Food Chains - Bangladesh

1982 Ten Years After Stockholm (Renewal of Environmental Concerns) - Bangladesh

1983 Managing and Disposing Hazardous Waste: Acid Rain and Energy - Bangladesh

1984 Desertification Rajshahi - Bangladesh

1985 Youth: Population and the Environment - Pakistan

1986 A Tree for Peace - Canada

1987 Environment and Shelter: More Than A Roof - Kenya

1988 When People Put the Environment First, Development Will Last - Thailand

1989 Global Warming; Global Warning - Belgium

1990 Children and the Environment - Mexico

1991 Climate Change. Need for Global Partnership - Sweden

1992 Only One Earth, Care and Share - Brazil

1993 Poverty and the Environment Breaking the Vicious Circle - China

1994 One Earth One Family - United Kingdom

1995 We the Peoples: United for the Global Environment Pretoria - South Africa

1996 Our Earth, Our Habitat, Our Home - Turkey

1997 For Life on Earth - Korea

1998 For Life on Earth Save Our Seas - Russian

1999 Our Earth Our Future Just Save It! - Japan

2000 The Environment Millennium Time to Act - Australia

2001 Connect with the World Wide Web of Life - Italy and Cuba

2002 Give Earth a Chance - China

2003 Water Two Billion People are Dying for It! - Lebanon

2004 Wanted! Seas and Oceans Dead or Alive? - Spain

2005 Green Cities Plan for the Planet! - United States

2006 Deserts and Desertification Don't Desert Drylands! - Algeria

2007 Melting Ice a Hot Topic? - England

2008 Kick The Habit Towards A Low Carbon Economy - New Zealand

2009 Your Planet Needs You - Unite to Combat Climate Change - Mexico

2010 Many Species. One Planet. One Future - Bangladesh

2011 Forests: Nature at your Service - India

2012 Green Economy: Does it include you? - Brazil

2013 Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint - Mongolia

2014 Raise your voice, not the sea level - Barbados

2015 Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. - Italy

2016 Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife trade - Angola

2017 Connecting People to Nature in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator - Canada

2018 Beat Plastic Pollution - India


World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 during the conference of Human Environment held in Stockholm (Sweden). This also lead to the formation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Two years later, in 1974 the first World Environment Day was celebrated with the theme 'Only One Earth'. Since 1974, WED has helped the UNEP to raise awareness on issues like toxic chemicals, depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, etc.

Why we need to beat air pollution

As already mentioned, the theme of the World Environment Day 2019 is Beat Air Contamination of the air is rising alarmingly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air worldwide. We need to put a brake to the progression of this increasing global problem.

Air pollution occurs when harmful gases, chemicals, etc. are introduced into the atmosphere. On this World Environment Day, let's pledge to take constructive actions against air pollution.

Sources of air pollution

There are various sources of air pollution. Here, we take a look at the most prominent ones.


The main household source of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, wood and other materials used to cook.


Industries increase the emission of harmful gases in the atmosphere in the form of smoke. The chemicals of those toxic gases are harmful to one's health.


Cars, bikes, trucks, buses, and almost all modes of transport run on fuels. With the increase in population, the number of vehicles on the road has also increased. This leads to carbon dioxide emission, another gas that harms human health in more ways than one.

Other sources:

Apart from man-made pollution, there are natural air pollutants too. These are sand storms, volcanic eruptions, etc. However, these are inevitable and cannot be controlled while the other causes of air pollution can be controlled.