The Balipara Foundation Awards 2018 was held on November 2 last at a hotel in Guwahati to applaud the ‘Earth Heroes’. As part of the event, the 6th Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial Lecture was delivered by Dr Kamal Bawa, an evolutionary ecologist, conservation biologist and a distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, US.
The best part about Balipara Foundation is that they reach out and give recognition to ‘green entrepreneurs’ at the grassroots level like the ‘Three Generation Boatmen from Bhutan’ or a simple farmer from Assam – Dimbeswar Rabha – for his unique pepper cultivation.
Speaking at the event which was packed with foreign dignitaries, Ranjit Barthakur, founder of Balipara Foundation, said, “My whole journey has not been my journey, but, our journey (read referring to his team) that attributes for whatever Balipara Foundation has achieved today.” He also pointed out that Assam is full of opportunities and “the Government is also providing full opportunities to us. It is only due to the lack of will on the part of the Assamese people that we are not being able to see through the opportunities”.
Balipara Foundation is headquartered in Balipara near Tezpur and since 2007, Balipara Foundation is working in the rural areas of Assam in tandem with economy and environment. The Annual Balipara Foundation Award was accorded to Maksudur Rahman of Bangladesh for preserving the bio-cultural heritage of the Sunderbans through his organisation Bangladesh Environment and Development Society. Narmohan Das of Assam walked away with the Naturenomics Award. Das has pushed the boundaries of sustainability by propagating the production of Ahimsa Silk and creating a circular economy within the silk industry.
The Green Journalist Award was presented to Uttam Saikia of Bokakhat (Assam). Saikia is the Honorary Wildlife Warden of Kaziranga and has been given the award for educating the Forest Department through his knowledge and for developing a deep-rooted empathy towards the World Heritage site – Kaziranga National Park. Stated Saikia, “This award goes to Kaziranga National Park”. Tambor Lyngdoh of Meghalaya was given the Eastern Himalayan Conservation Award for his contribution towards socio-economic development of forest fringe communities of Mawphlang, Meghalaya.
Tenzing Bodosa of Assam got the Habitat Conservation Award for allowing safe passage to elephants in one of the most affected human-elephant conflict zones – Udalguri. This tea planter from Udalguri has begun a silent revolution by producing elephant-friendly tea. The Food for the Future Award was bagged by Dimbeswar Rabha of Assam for his innovative idea of growing black pepper as an alternate source of livelihood through ‘Small Farm Integration for Sustainable Agriculture and Improved Access to Market’ project.
The Forest Rangers and Guards of the Eastern Himalayas Award was bagged by Alemba Yimchunger of Nagaland for protecting the wildlife of Fakim Sanctuary and going beyond the call of duty to preserve nature. The same award was also bagged by Dorji Wangchuk of Bhutan for his contribution towards social development of forest fringe communities around the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan and helping Bhutan realise its goal to double the tiger population by 2020 by preserving the animal.
Dr Anshu Jamsenpa of Arunachal Pradesh got the Eastern Himalayan Global Environmental Ambassador Award. A mountaineer and Himalayan lover, she is the only woman in the world to ascend Mount Everest twice in five days. Said Anshu, “Mountaineering has taught me a lot. But, the biggest lesson that I have learnt is – we cannot go against Nature.” The Agricultural Revolution in Balipara County Award was given to Mehdi Arif Hussain. Hussain said in the award ceremony that he wished to open a school in Balipara where “lessons would be imparted to farmers on how to avoid conflict with elephants and learn to be elephant-friendly”.
The Eastern Himalayan Sports Development Award was presented to High-Altitude Training Centre of Mizoram for providing grassroots training to the youths of Mizoram and ample green space. The Cross-Country Preservation of the Eastern Himalayan Award was given to ‘The Three Generation Boatmen’ – Purshoram Choudary, Shankar Choudary, Raj Kumar Choudary, Lokhan Choudary – of Bhutan – for being custodians of the river pathway to Bhutan’s magical forest land of Manas National Park. These generations of boatmen from the same family carry knowledge of the Manas river, serving wildlife and humanity for ages. They have been Bhutan’s first river guides, dealing with harsh climatic conditions making river transportation viable and safe.
Usha Lachungpa of Mangalore, Karnataka was presented the Lifetime Service Award. She is the first Indian lady to do a Wildlife and Research Management course and is a Green Crusader carrying forward the bio-cultural heritage of the Eastern Himalayas through knowledge and awareness.