India Shines At The 2017 Green Oscars
The annual Whitley Awards, popularly known as the ‘Green Oscars’, which recognise and celebrate significant contributions in the field of wildlife conservation, were announced on May 18, 2017 at The Royal Geographic Society, London.
Photo: James Finlay.
Established in 1994, these awards presented by the UK-based charity, the Whitley Fund For Nature, encourage conservation researchers and enthusiasts by acknowledging, awarding and funding various projects that seek to bring about a change at the grassroot level.
This year, out of over 166 applicants, from all around the world, six conservationists made the cut, The winners are Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia, Ian Little from South Africa, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela and Indira-Lacerna Widmann from Philippines. The six winners received a sum of £35,000 each to fund their projects.
This year’s Gold Award went to 2013 Whitley Award Winner, Zafer Kizilkaya from Turkey for his project ‘Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline’. Every year a previous Whitley Award winner is chosen to receive the Whitley Gold Award, which includes a sum of £50,000, for their outstanding contribution to conservation.
Purnima Barman, known as the driving force behind the ‘Hargila Army’, works with Assam-based NGO, Aranayak. She was awarded the Whitley for her efforts towards the conservation of the critically endangered Greater Adjutant Stork and its wetland habitat.
Barman mobilised the Hargila Army, an all-female team of marginalised women dedicated to protecting the Greater Adjutant. These women conservationists are changing the general perception by conducting campaigns, using the bird as a popular emblem in handloom products and giving them representation in hymns. Owing to the Hargila army’s efforts, bird nests have risen from 30 in 2008 to 150 and more in Assam. Purnima plans to use the Whitley funds to expand her Hargila Army to four more districts in Assam.
Sanjay Gubbi from Karnataka, won the Whitley for his contribution towards tiger conservation. Gubbi left his job as an electrical engineer to work as a scientist with the Nature Conservation Foundation. His area of work involves connecting and protecting tiger habitats. In 2012, after years of struggle he managed to get 2,385 km. of tiger habitat legally secured, increasing India’s total Protected Area by 60,000 acres.
He is now working towards reducing forest degradation within wildlife sanctuaries. With the award funds, Gubbi plans to distribute stoves and alternate fuel to villagers in order to minimise their reliance on firewood, thus reducing deforestation. He also plans to mobilise support for his cause through campaigns and train young people in skills that can be used in the field of conservation.