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Rural Futures in the Eastern Himalayas

19th September 2017 - Vivanta by Taj, Guwahati

Image: Dr. Rathin Barman, Deputy Director, WTI,  Mr. Krishan Agarwal, General Manager, Vivanta by Taj, Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, Professor and Head, Assam Agricultural University, Saurav Malhotra, Programme Executive, Balipara Foundation, Dr. Pijush Kumar Dutta and Mr. Amit Sharma , senior coordinators at WWF - India

Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum

Guwahati: Pioneering the conversation on Community Conservation & Botany, Balipara Foundation proudly announced the 4th edition of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum to be held in Guwahati, Assam on 2nd & 3rd November 2017 in a Press Conference on 19th September 2017 held at Vivanta by Taj, Guwahati. The multi-disciplinary Forum has welcomed over 2000 guests from 13 different countries through the years. This year, over a two-day conference, the Forum is expected to engage 600+ participants from 20+ countries in conversations and actions towards green economy solutions and will pave the path for a dialogue on empowering local communities and building rural futures in the region.

The press conference was addressed by Mr. Amit Sharma and Dr. Pijush Kumar Dutta, senior coordinators at WWF- India, Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, Professor and Head, Assam Agricultural University, Dr. Rathin Barman, Deputy Director, WTI, Mr. Krishan Agarwal, General Manager, Vivanta by Taj, Saurav Malhotra, Programme Executive, Balipara Foundation and Karishma Ahmed, Events lead, Balipara Foundation. Together they gave an insight into the conservation history of the Eastern Himalayas, the pivotal role of communities in it and the power of global Forums like the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum in making breakthrough reforms. Elephant Friendly tea, the Asian Elephant Secretariat and biodiversity audit in the Eastern Himalayas are some of the outcomes of discussions and partnerships at the Forum.

The enchanting Eastern Himalayas harbors some of the world’s richest biodiversity and is the abode of several vibrant indigenous communities, who are dependent on the natural resources for their daily sustenance and livelihoods. Biodiversity and Environment Conservation in the region has been a subject of global interest along with the intricate relationship that the rural communities thriving in this region share with mother nature.

Since inception, Balipara Foundation has challenged and questioned the narratives that drive conservation efforts the world over. This has allowed us to develop & implement socially participative conservation programmes and propose the concept of Rural Futures or RuFu as we like to call it. RuFu is a holistic plan encompassing all human needs and one, which allows wildlife to thrive alongside. “We are very excited about launching RuFu and partnering with other organisations and local communities to make this a highly participatory and reproducible model for conservation efforts the world over” – says Saurav Malhotra, Project Executive, Balipara Foundation.

This year we will continue conversations on the themes that we’ve been exploring over the past few years, develop implementation plans for RuFu and through the Balipara Foundation Awards, recognize the Real Stalwarts of the Eastern Himalayas – people who’ve dedicated themselves to preserving the rich Biocultural Diversity that we in the Eastern Himalayas are so blessed with.

The Forum will see participation from a panel of prolific speakers and thought provokers from varied fields such as science, conservation, education, economic reforms, indigenous knowledge, technology, journalism, law, politics, government and forest departments, who will table new ideas and thoughts and bring forth significant issues from the ground that need tackling towards community welfare, habitat restoration and progressing towards a sustainable future. We will explore business models, policy reforms, technology, etc., to identify drivers and innovative ideas for community conservation.

The focus will also be to highlight successful conservation stories to encourage community heroes and discuss the role of local role models who have created social, economic and ecological impact through their efforts. Through the awards, we have highlighted over 53 case studies ranging from the protection of endangered species and threatened habitats to the promotion of environmental education, tourism, products and services, emphasizing the interdependence between nature and economics.

Balipara Foundation Awards 2017 will be held on the evening of 3rd November 2017 where we will recognize 10 new ecological crusaders from the Eastern Himalayas. It will feature the Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial Lecture Series, which invites speakers to inspire and energize these ecological crusaders. We are pleased to invite His Excellency President of Central Tibetan Administration Dr. Lobsang Sangay to deliver the memorial lecture this year. In the past, the memorial lecture has featured eminent speakers such as Dr. Ashok Khosla, Mr. Shyam Saran and Professor Gunter Pauli. In 2016, the lecture was delivered in a unique jugalbandi between Mr. S Ramadorai (Technology) with renowned flautist Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Mrs. Mala Ramadorai (Music).

The Event has garnered immense acknowledgment and continuous support from notable organizations like Vivanta by Taj, DIAGEO, Globally Managed Services, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust of India, WWF-India and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Our knowledge partners are ATREE, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Myanmar Matters, Sanctuary Asia, and Universities and Schools like Assam Agricultural University, Cotton State University, Kunming Institute of Botany, China, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tezpur University, Rajiv Gandhi University, Forests Departments of Assam, Bhutan and Meghalaya and co-hosts and Media Partners News Live and Niyomiya Barta. We have also been supported by renowned environmentalists, world leading botanists Scott McMahan, Dr. Peter Raven, Dr. Kamal Bawa from ATREE who will co-lead the conversation on RuFu with us. None of this without the unstinting guidance from the 9 Communities of the Eastern Himalayas – Adivasi, Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Garo, Mishing, Nepalese, Nyishi and Rajbanshi.

The Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum has been a platform to promote drivers of change towards Asian Elephant Conservation. Towards this, we will foray into a dialogue on Elephant Reintroduction through our collaboration with Khun Sivaporn Dardarananda, Secretary-General of Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, Thailand, who will share his knowledge on rewilding the elephants for their critical role as rangers of the forests for the afforestation projects in Elephant Country. Dr. Kushal Konwar Sarma, who has been an ardent supporter of the Forum through the years will also speak about Elephant science to deepen the impact of Conservation. Asian Elephant Conservationists from around the world will discuss the possibility of connecting more Elephant corridors to build a borderless world for Asian Elephants. Eastern Himalayan Elephant Princess Priyanka Yoshikawa, Miss World Japan, 2016 will evangelize the message of best treatment for Elephants in Captivity but with an ultimate message that all Elephants should return to the forests.

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