Guwahati, India- Balipara Foundation recently concluded its 11th edition of the annual Eastern Himalayan NaturenomicsTM Forum, held in Guwahati. The focal point of this year’s forum was the theme of ‘The Great People’s Forest 2030,’ drawing together a diverse group of 60 participants from over 15 countries to collaboratively address key challenges and formulate a restoration agenda for the Eastern Himalayan region. The theme derives from the ambitious Great People’s Forest initiative launched in partnership between the Balipara Foundation and Conservation International earlier this year at the G20 to restore 1 million hectares of forests and farmlands by 2030.
The event featured prominent figures such as Dr. Vandana Shiva, environmental activist; Dr. Richard Jeo, Senior Vice President at Conservation International; and Mr. Jason Knauf, Global Leadership Fellow at Conservation International. The other panellists present at the event on other days included Ram Madhav, President India Foundation, Dr. Sonali Ghosh, current director of Kaziranga National Park, Dr. Rathin Barman, director of Wildlife Trust of India, Monica Kishore Pasupuleti, IFS, Deputy Conservator of Forests in Assam and David Smith from WWF India, Chanakya Chaudhary, Director, Tata Steel Foundation & Vice President, Corporate Services at Tata Steel, Gautam Mukhopadhya, Senior Visiting Fellow, Center Policy Research, India, Dr. Nawang Norbu, Bhutan Ecological Society, Bhuta, Dasho Paljor Benji Dorji, Environmentalist, Bhutan, Dr. Richard Jeo, Senior Vice President, Conservative International, Singapore, Saurav Malhotra, Rural Futures- Co-Founder & Designer, Balipara Foundation, Michael Dawson, Rural futures, Anthropological Visioner, Balipara Foundation.
Ranjit Barthakur, Founder of Balipara Foundation emphasized the ecological significance of the Himsagar region, stressing its role in maintaining overall environmental balance. He highlighted, “The third pole that is the region from Tibet to the Indian Ocean is a predominant part of the ecological balance.” He added that the initiative by Balipara Foundation will continue to support and regenerate the Great Eastern Himalayas.
Dr. Vandana Shiva emphasized, “If you look around in the North-East, where the forest ends and farm begins, it’s difficult to see. So, one of the things we must do is get rid of what I think is a monoculture of mind.” She stressed that the separation must be extinct to be a part of this initiative.
Mr. Jason Knauf stated, “The launch of the GPF first rapid-scaling portfolio, an initiative by Balipara Foundation and a coalition of partners, including ATREEE and TERI at COP28, is an incredible example of action and vision at pace, working in harmony.”
The forum culminated in the presentation of the Balipara Foundation Awards, recognizing outstanding contributions to environmental conservation. A total of 16 awards were given to the winners, adding an extra layer of celebration to the event:
Rural Futures Rewilding Award: Neela Gurung, Nepal
Naturenomics Award: Silluk Village, Women’s Welfare Society, Arunachal Pradesh
Green Journalist Award: Choki Wangmo, Bhutan
Green Guru Award: Saibal Sengupta, Darjeeling, Dr. Sushanto Gouda, Mizoram
Young Naturalist Award: Morningstar Khongthaw, Meghalaya
Food for the Future Award: Mrs. Seineng Singsit, Manipur
Forests Guards & Rangers Award: Mr. Awsafur Rahman, Bangladesh; Karma Gyalmo, Bhutan; Panbari Camp, Assam
Lifetime Service Award: Dr. Anwaruddin Choudhury, Assam
Great Himalayan Star Award: Dr. Ashok Khosla
Rewilding The Eastern Himalayan Grant: Zhimoholi and Shikali, Nagaland
Special Recognition Award – Green Entrepreneur: Biswajit Goyari, Assam
Special Recognition Award – Honoring the Champions of Rescue and Rehabilitation: Azzedine Downes
Food for the Future Award (Second Occurrence): Mrs. Seineng Singsit, Manipur
Special Recognition Award – Green Agripreneur: Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha, Sikkim
The success of the forum, coupled with the recognition bestowed upon the winners of these prestigious awards, not only celebrates the achievements of individuals and initiatives in the Eastern Himalayas but also reinforces the commitment of Balipara Foundation and its partners to promote and champion sustainable practices in the region. This success builds on the momentum generated by the Great People’s Forest initiative, launched earlier at the G20, aiming to restore 1 million hectares of land across the Eastern Himalayan region by 2030. The conversations and collaborations at the 11th NaturenomicsTM Forum have set the stage for a collaborative and ambitious restoration agenda for the Eastern Himalayas, aligning with the vision of the ‘Great People’s Forest 2030.