Rural Futures Rewilding Award

Neela Gurung – Nepal

Neela Gurung was presented the award by Dr. Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI, India

Hailing from Tumling in Nepal’s Ilam district, Neela Gurung stands as an exemplary conservationist, making a profound impact on her community and the environment. Over the past decade, she has personally planted over 50,000 Rhododendron trees, combating deforestation and revitalizing habitats for local flora and fauna. Gurung’s commitment extends to waste management initiatives, emphasizing responsible disposal and recycling to preserve the natural beauty of her surroundings.

As the proprietor of Shikhar Lodge, a sustainable homestay, Gurung promotes responsible tourism, raising awareness about conservation practices. Her educational interactions with tourists and locals alike foster a deeper understanding of environmental preservation. Additionally, her efforts in waste management and sustainable tourism have not only contributed to the local economy but also empowered the community to collectively commit to preserving their natural surroundings. Neela Gurung’s tireless dedication has reshaped the ecological landscape, reversing deforestation and promoting responsible environmental stewardship.

NaturenomicsTM Award

Silluk Village – Arunachal Pradesh

Silluk Village from Arunachal Pradesh was presented the award by Dr. Isha Banerjee, Proprietor and Managing Trustee of Dr. Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Clinic and Foundation, West Bengal.

Nestled in the East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh, Silluk Village shines as the cleanest village since 2019 and the sole Government-recognized Zero Waste village in the state. Led by Kepang Nong Borang, the Swachh Silluk Abhiyan (S.S.A) team’s commitment to cleanliness and environmental preservation earned the village the cleanest village award for three consecutive years. An innovative approach by the Green Squad Team introduced “Magic Bags,” jute gunny bags distributed to every household for waste segregation. Managed efficiently by the NGO, the collected waste is sent for recycling, contributing significantly to the village’s zero-waste goal.

Proximity to Dr. D. Ering Wildlife Sanctuary and Mebo Reserve Forest adds to Silluk’s allure. In collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India, Team S.S.A rescues distressed animals, raises awareness, and facilitates harmonious coexistence with nature, successfully rescuing endangered species.

Silluk Village’s initiatives raised environmental awareness, attracting tourists and fostering economic growth. The preservation of indigenous knowledge ensures cultural continuity, while tourism generates income through hospitality, guiding, and cultural experiences. The village’s commitment to sustainability has sparked eco-friendly ventures, preserving the natural ecosystem and fostering a healthier environment.

NaturenomicsTM Award

Women's Welfare Society – Tripura

Women's Welfare Society from Tripura was presented the award by Dr. Sonali Ghosh, Director, Kaziranga National Park, Assam.

The Women’s Welfare Society in Tripura, India, stands as a beacon for women and artisans, focusing on sustainable livelihoods and traditional crafts. With a commitment to bamboo crafting and natural dye extraction, the society has profound impacts on the economic, social, and environmental fabric of the region. Artisan Empowerment is central to their mission, engaging with 1500 to 2000 predominantly women artisans. Through skill development, training, and leveraging bamboo’s versatility, the society creates a diverse range of eco-friendly products, including furniture, home decor, handicrafts, and construction materials. The society’s emphasis on bamboo extends to the extraction of Natural Dyes, contributing to sustainable textile coloring. Their efforts preserve traditional crafts, pass down skills, and elevate the income of artisans, subsequently boosting the local economy.

By promoting bamboo-based crafts and natural dyes, the society generates job opportunities, addressing unemployment and fostering economic growth. Advocating for eco-friendly products stimulates economic activity and encourages sustainable resource management, reducing reliance on less eco-friendly alternatives and aiding environmental conservation. They exemplify the integration of traditional craftsmanship with sustainable practices, driving social empowerment, economic growth, and environmental conservation in the region.

Green Journalist Award

Choki Wangmo – Bhutan

Choki Wangmo from Bhutan was presented the award by Adil Hussain, celebrated Indian Actor, India.

Choki Wangmo’s journalism journey is a testament to her commitment to sustainability, climate change, and environmental concerns. Recognized as the “National winner of the Best Climate Change story” in 2022, her impactful reporting spans Bhutan’s local and global environmental challenges. Choki honed her storytelling skills through workshops with Eric Weiner and National Geographic’s global photo camp, becoming an effective communicator in environmental storytelling.

Beyond journalism, Choki deepened her nature and birding expertise, enriching her understanding of Bhutan’s biodiversity and environmental conservation. Her community engagement, including her role as a Y-PEER Club Secretary and visits to schools in Punakha and Wangdue districts, showcases her dedication to educating the younger generation on crucial social and health issues. Her reporting and advocacy efforts have played a pivotal role in raising environmental awareness, promoting sustainable living, and shedding light on climate change among the Bhutanese population. Her participation in nature guide training and birding tours contributes to improved conservation efforts, protecting endangered species and their habitats.

Green Guru Award

Dr. Saibal Sengupta – Darjeeling

Dr. Saibal Sengupta from Darjeeling was presented the award by Akshata Narain, Director, Purvanchal Communication Private Limited, Assam.

Saibal Sengupta’s tenure as an English and Environmental Studies teacher at St. Robert’s Higher Secondary School in Darjeeling, starting in 2003, reflects a lifelong dedication to environmental education rooted in his own school days. His passion for environmentalism began as the founding president of the North Point Environment Club in 1993.

In 2003, he established the Nature Club at St. Robert’s School, aligning it with the Nature Clubs of India movement by WWF India. Guiding National Children’s Science Congress projects, he explored Avian diversity, Himalayan Orchids, bio-briquettes, and the decline of ‘Saipatri’ (Marigold) in Darjeeling. Over the years, he has nurtured and shaped the minds of more than 300 students, sowing seeds of conservation and environmental consciousness. His commitment has woven significant social threads at St. Robert’s Higher Secondary School and within the North Point Environment Club, instilling environmental responsibility in his students.

His legacy in environmental education echoes beyond classroom walls, instilling heightened environmental consciousness among numerous students. His foundational role as the president of the North Point Environment Club in 1993 provided a platform for active student engagement in conservation. His impact extends beyond instruction, nurturing a sense of responsibility for the environment, shaping future conservationists and eco-champions.

Green Guru Award

Dr. Sushanto Gouda – Mizoram

Dr. Sushanto Gouda from Mizoram was presented the award by Ruma Chakraborty, Cluster Programming Head - NE, Big FM, Assam.

Dr. Sushanto Gouda, a prominent figure in zoology, leads the Mizoram Zoological Society (MZS), dedicated to wildlife conservation and environmental education in Mizoram. MZS, under his guidance, focuses on preserving the state’s diverse biodiversity, particularly endangered species like the emblematic Hume’s pheasant, through scientific exploration and captive breeding programs.

Dr. Gouda oversees comprehensive research on indigenous wildlife and ecosystems, forming the foundation for robust conservation strategies. MZS, beyond scientific pursuits, emphasizes environmental education through workshops and outreach programs for local communities and students. Under Dr. Gouda’s leadership, MZS collaborates with governmental bodies, NGOs, and international organizations to advocate for conservation and policy reforms. Their holistic approach involves engaging local communities to foster a sense of communal ownership towards environmental preservation, intertwining wildlife conservation with Mizoram’s cultural tapestry. Focused on wildlife conservation, habitat preservation, and anti-poaching efforts, MZS, led by Dr. Sushanto Gouda, safeguards Mizoram’s ecological harmony and contributes to the wider scientific knowledge pool.

Young Naturalist Award

Morningstar Khongthaw – Meghalaya

Morningstar Khongthaw from Meghalaya was presented the award by Vanessa Cholez, Environmental Anthropologist, France.

Morningstar Khongthaw, a champion of environmental conservation and cultural heritage in Meghalaya, founded the Living Bridge Foundation in 2018. Focused on preserving traditional living root architectures, especially iconic living root bridges, Morningstar’s leadership acknowledges elders crucial for conservation, emphasizing indigenous wisdom in ecological preservation. Beyond environmental concerns, Morningstar intertwines cultural conservation, community empowerment, and the transmission of ancestral practices. Through workshops and awareness programs, he educates on living root architectures and environmental guardianship, reviving these structures and boosting tourism for economic growth. His initiatives not only enhance economic prospects for local communities but also enrich artisans and promote sustainable livelihoods. The preservation of traditional living root architectures supports unique ecosystems, contributing to biodiversity conservation and advocating eco-conscious construction practices.

A significant outcome is the resurgence of intentional reforestation, nurturing natural resources through the planting of Ficus tree saplings in riverbeds. Morningstar’s multifaceted efforts create a harmonious blend of environmental preservation, cultural revival, and economic upliftment.

Food for the Future Award

Seineng Singsit – Manipur

Seineng Singsit from Manipur was presented the award by Oken Tayeng, Founder, Aborcountry Travels and Expeditions, Arunachal Pradesh.

Sieneng Singsit, from Kangchup Forest in Manipur, has been the guardian of a 7-hectare forest for over three decades, overcoming societal biases. Illiterate yet deeply connected to nature, she has planted thousands of fruit-bearing trees, bamboo, and various species, fostering afforestation and environmental conservation. Her cultivation of crops like ginger and turmeric provides income and diversifies the local diet, enhancing food security. Singsit’s story inspires sustainable practices, showcasing the impact of one person’s dedication. Her efforts not only sustain her family but also generate income for her community, fostering a diverse local economy and encouraging others to adopt sustainable farming. Her afforestation initiative significantly benefits the environment, curbing soil erosion, improving air quality, and preserving biodiversity. Through her tireless commitment, Singsit contributes to the overall environmental health of the region, creating habitats for wildlife and aiding in the preservation of endangered species.

Forests Guards & Rangers Award

Awsafur Rahman – Bangladesh

Awsafur Rahman, celebrated as a forest hero in the Satkhira district, stands out for his exceptional contributions to environmental conservation in the Eastern Himalaya. As the Upazila Forest Officer, his unwavering commitment to protecting critical ecosystems has made a substantial impact in Assasuni, Satkhira District. Rahman’s collaboration with the Friendship NGO showcases his impactful partnerships in local forest management, particularly in capacity-building training for community members in plantation and nursery management. His hands-on involvement in field visits and insightful suggestions have ensured the success and sustainability of conservation projects.

Testimonies from individuals like Md Bodiuzzaman, General Manager of Friendship Head Office, commend Rahman’s exemplary service and role as a forest guardian, fostering a harmonious alliance between Friendship NGO and the Forest Department. His facilitation of capacity-building training has empowered individuals to actively participate in environmental conservation, significantly contributing to the success of mangrove plantation projects. Similarly, Community Chairman Abu Daud Dhali highlights Rahman’s profound impact, transforming the community’s perspective on environmental preservation. Under Rahman’s leadership, capacity-building training has empowered community members, fostering a deep connection and sense of responsibility towards environmental initiatives. Awsafur Rahman’s dedication and service make him an exemplary candidate for the Forest Guards & Rangers Award – Lifetime Service Award. His tireless efforts, collaborative spirit, and genuine commitment to environmental conservation have earned him deep respect from both organizational and community leaders.

Forests Guards & Rangers Award

Karma Gyalmo – Bhutan

Karma Gyalmo from Bhutan was presented the award by Mrs. Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, Leading Entrepreneur and Managing Director, Pride East Entertainment, Assam.

Karma Gyalmo, a dedicated forest officer in Bhutan, has demonstrated unwavering commitment to forest conservation throughout her career in the Department of Forest and Park Services. Starting as a Forest Guard III in Mongar in 2003, Karma steadily progressed through the ranks, earning promotions and showcasing dedication to preserving Bhutan’s forests. Her career reached new heights in 2023 when she became a Forest Ranger-II in the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a testament to her significant contributions to Bhutan’s forest conservation. Beyond her professional achievements, Karma is a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. She has organized women’s self-help groups, provided education and skills training, and advocated for gender equality in her community. Her efforts extend to improving education and healthcare access in underserved areas.

Karma Gyalmo’s work has also fostered community cohesion and strengthened social bonds. Initiatives promoting sustainable agriculture practices, income-generating activities, and entrepreneurship development have elevated livelihoods, contributing to local economic growth and self-reliance. Additionally, her advocacy for environmental conservation has raised awareness about deforestation, wildlife conservation, and responsible land use. Leading reforestation projects, Karma mobilizes communities to plant trees, restore ecosystems, and mitigate climate-related challenges. Her multifaceted efforts encapsulate a profound dedication to both environmental preservation and community development, making her an inspirational figure in Bhutan’s conservation landscape.

Forests Guards & Rangers Award

Panbari Camp – Assam

Panbari Camp from Assam was presented the award by Jiren Topno, Head – Tribal Identity, Tata Steel Foundation, India.

Nestled amidst the verdant sprawl of Kaziranga National Park, the vigilant team at Panbari Camp forms a stalwart line of defence in preserving this wildlife sanctuary. Led by Forester Nampo Pegu, the team comprises five diligent Forest Guards – Purabi Chetia, Priyanka Borah, Ushamoni Gogoi, Martina Gogoi, and Sangita Bora – all dedicated to safeguarding the park’s rich biodiversity. Their nocturnal watch, spanning from 6:45 pm to 6:00 am, stands as a testament to their unwavering commitment to protecting the diverse flora and fauna thriving within. Beyond the ordinary scope of their duties, these guardians tirelessly patrol the park, ensuring no unauthorized individuals, especially potential poachers, encroach upon its boundaries without proper permissions. Amidst the captivating panorama, they encounter a tapestry of fascinating wildlife that calls Kaziranga its home – from the Capped Langur and black squirrel to the majestic hornbill and agile gibbon, all under their vigilant watch.

Moreover, the team actively manages the interactions between wildlife and human infrastructure, meticulously monitoring road crossings to prevent any harm to the animals. Their unwavering efforts position the Panbari Camp team as staunch protectors, tirelessly labouring to maintain the delicate equilibrium of this natural ecosystem while ensuring the well-being of the park’s inhabitants. Their night-long vigilance stands as a beacon of dedication, preserving the beauty and integrity of Kaziranga National Park.

Lifetime Service Award

Dr. Anwaruddin Choudhury – Assam

Dr. Anwaruddin Choudhury from Assam was presented the award by Dr. Kamal Bawa, Founder, ATREE, India; and Ranjit Barthakur, Founder Forester, Balipara Foundation, Assam.

Anwaruddin Choudhury, a prominent ornithologist and wildlife biologist, has made exceptional contributions to natural history and wildlife preservation in India, particularly in Northeast India. His extensive research has uncovered numerous rare bird species, shedding light on the distinctive avian life of the region and advocating ardently for their protection. Beyond scholarly pursuits, he has been a relentless force in conservation, working to preserve natural habitats and wildlife through advocacy and hands-on fieldwork. Dr. Choudhury’s commitment to environmental education is equally notable. As an author of books, articles, and field guides, he enriches the knowledge of naturalists, researchers, and conservationists, serving as a bridge between scientific understanding and public appreciation of Northeast India’s biodiversity. His lifelong dedication, scholarly prowess, and unwavering commitment to preserving Northeast India’s natural wonders have elevated him to eminence in the realm of wildlife conservation and environmental awareness, inspiring reverence for nature and the urgency of its protection.

Great Himalayan Star Award

Dr. Ashok Khosla

Dr. Ashok Khosla, Chairman, Development Alternatives, India was presented the award by Ranjit Barthakur, Founder Forester, Balipara Foundation, Assam.

Ashok Khosla, a prominent Indian environmentalist, has significantly contributed to sustainable development throughout his illustrious career. As the founder of Development Alternatives, a nonprofit dedicated to eco-friendly solutions, and in key roles such as co-chair of IUCN’s Interim Council and the UN Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel, Khosla has left a lasting impact. His affiliation with the Club of Rome underscores his dedication to addressing global challenges and shaping Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Khosla’s influence extends beyond advocacy; his active roles on advisory boards for international organizations and governmental bodies provide strategic direction for environmental policies. His enduring commitment to sustainability serves as a guiding beacon for fostering positive environmental change, inspiring a more conscious and sustainable future.

Special Recognition Award – Green Entrepreneur

Biswajit Goyari – Assam

Biswajit Goyari from Assam was presented the award by Karuna Singh, Regional Director – Asia, Earth Day Network, India.

Biswajit Goyari, hailing from Dahalapara village in Chirang District, Assam, has overcome personal challenges to dedicate himself to uplifting his community. His journey began with volunteering as a field surveyor in 2018, meticulously assessing Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Chirang District. Inspired by this experience, he joined The Action Northeast Trust (The ANT), serving as a Disability Facilitator and later as a Sports Trainer Cum Mobiliser from 2019 to 2023.

In 2020, Biswajit founded the Morning Star Trust (MST) in Chirang District, focusing on the socio-economic, cultural, and sports development of PWD. As the Executive Director, he initiated surveys, formed self-help groups, and established a weaving unit, providing sustainable livelihoods for PWD. Despite personal challenges, Biswajit played a crucial role in supporting the District Social Welfare department, ensuring PWD receive deserved government scheme benefits. His life is a testament to his unyielding spirit and commitment to catalyzing positive transformations for persons with disabilities, serving as an inspiration for inclusivity and societal advancement.

Special Recognition-Green Agripreneur

Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha – Sikkim

Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha from Sikkim was presented the award by Nawang Norbhu, Founder and Executive Director, Bhutan Ecological Society, Bhutan

Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha co-founded the “Concerned Lepcha of Sikkim” (CLOS) to address the threats of dam projects to Sikkim’s ecosystem and Lepcha culture. His notable achievement includes preventing the Teesta Stage III hydroelectric project, safeguarding the Teesta River and Dzongu valley. Tenzing promotes organic farming, manages an ecotourism homestay, and unites the Lepcha community through CLOS, preserving their cultural heritage. His efforts enhance self-sufficiency, fortify social cohesion, and contribute to a sustainable future in Dzongu, boosting the local economy while promoting responsible tourism and environmental preservation.

Rewilding The Eastern Himalaya Grant

Shikali Awomi and Zhimoholi Zhimo – Nagaland

Shikali Awomi and Zhimoholi Zhimo from Nagaland was presented the award by Anirban Roy, Editor-in-Chief, GPlus, Assam.

Shikali Awomi and Zhimoholi Zhimo, from Sukhai Village, Nagaland, are dedicated to environmental consciousness and community development. They successfully promoted agroforestry and habitat restoration in Sukhai, inspiring 45 out of 65 households to participate. Their influence extends to neighboring villages like Ghukhyi and Kivikhu, where they actively engage in agroforestry initiatives. Establishing a community nursery, they supplied 80,000 saplings for habitat restoration, generating revenue and benefiting households. Their grassroots activism fosters enduring change, raising community awareness and mobilizing villagers for agroforestry and habitat restoration. Through education and training, they empower the community, create income-generating opportunities, and contribute to biodiversity and carbon sequestration, while their nursery operations significantly aid reforestation efforts.

Special Recognition Award – Honouring the Champions of Rescue and Rehabilitation

Azzedine Downes – USA

Azzedine Downes from the USA was presented the award by Vivek Menon, Founder and ED, Wildlife Trust of India, Delhi; and Ranjit Barthakur, Founder Forester, Balipara Foundation, Assam.

As President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Azzedine Downes led global wildlife conservation efforts. Under his guidance, IFAW pioneered strategies against illegal wildlife trade, climate change impacts, and animal welfare policies. Notably, the organization achieved success in Northeast India through wildlife rescue projects like the Centre for Wildlife Rescue, Conservation Kaziranga, and Conservation Pakke. Downes’ visionary leadership, spanning two decades, has made significant contributions to global wildlife conservation and stands out for fostering impactful collaborations.

His commitment acknowledges cultural and ethical aspects, ensuring conservation efforts are culturally sensitive. Downes inspires individuals, encouraging active participation in conservation and fostering a collective sense of responsibility. Emphasizing wildlife conservation plays a crucial role in promoting eco-tourism and providing economic opportunities for local communities engaged in sustainable practices. Furthermore, by ensuring wildlife conservation, Downes indirectly contributes to environmental stability and the economic prosperity of regions focused on conservation efforts.

A Tribute to Anne Wright

Honoured by Dasho Benji Dorji, Leading Environmentalist, Bhutan in the presence of Belinda Wright, Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India, India.

Anne Wright, a true champion of environmental conservation, received the prestigious “Member of the Order of the British Empire” award in the early 1980s for her exceptional commitment to conservation efforts. As a founding trustee of the World Wide Fund for Nature India, she played a crucial role in its establishment, leaving a lasting imprint on the organization’s legacy.

Beyond boardroom influence, Anne was instrumental in the enactment of the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972 and a founding member of the Tiger Task Force, significantly contributing to Project Tiger. Her dedication extended to hands-on advocacy for preserving tiger habitats, reflecting a deep commitment to fostering sustainable environments for wildlife.

Anne’s legacy, marked by swift and decisive action for environmental causes, continues through her daughter Belinda Wright. Her recent passing at Kipling Camp on October 4, 2023, marked the end of an era in environmental stewardship and tiger conservation in India. Her remarkable legacy serves as an inspiration for current and future conservationists, leaving an enduring impact on the preservation of our natural world.