Guwahati, Aug 26 (IANS) Assam’s ecologist and conservation activist Bibhuti Lahkar has become the only Asian and the first individual from Assam to be nominated for the prestigious ‘Heritage Heroes Award’ to be given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Besides Lahkar, four others to be nominated for the award this year are Bantu Lukambo and Josu Kambasu Mukura, (jointly nominated from Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Yulia Naberezhnaya and Andrey Rudomahka (jointly nominated from Western Caucasus, Russian Federation).
Lahkar has been working to save the grasslands, flora and fauna of Manas National Park for the past two decades. His contribution to the revival of the once endangered Manas landscape has finally received global acknowledgement through this nomination.
Lahkar is currently engaged as Manas Landscape Administrator for Aaranyak, an NGO working for biodiversity conservation in northeast India.
“The Manas National Park suffered a lot during the early 1990s when the Bodo insurgency movement was at its peak. During this volatile situation, people occupied land within the park and started rampant timber collection and poaching within the protected area. As a consequence, Manas was listed as a World Heritage Site in danger (1992-2011),” Lahkar said, adding that he first started training young people as tourist guides and for wildlife monitoring.
“I have interacted continuously with the local communities, held meetings and workshops and discussed with various stakeholders on how to solve the problem of forest destruction and save the wildlife,” he said, adding that he also started educating surrendered poachers and hunters on biodiversity, protection and monitoring of wildlife.
“These poachers later became conservationists and they are now helping the forest department in patrolling and protecting Manas,” he said, adding that the park subsequently became a conservation success story and earned back its ‘World Heritage Site’ status in 2011.
The IUCN’s ‘Heritage Heroes Award’ is aimed at recognizing the ‘outstanding efforts’ in making a difference in the conservation of World Heritage sites in challenging situations. The recipient for the award will be selected through online voting on the website www.iucn.org, which began on August 25 and will continue till August 31, 2016.