Wildlife Service Award
Grassroots conservationist, eco-entrepreneur and young leader
Photo Courtesy: Iho Mitapo
He spent his childhood swimming in the fast-flowing rivers of the lower Dibang valley and scaling the surrounding, unexplored mountains; now he strives to protect them. Born in the cradle of the eastern Himalaya into an Idu Mishmi tribal household, young Iho Mitapo is a force to reckon with. Soon after dropping out of high school, Iho proved himself indispensable to anthropologist Dr. Sahil Nijhawan and spent two years deploying hundreds of camera traps through the remotest parts of the Dibang valley and confidently leading expeditions to explore the area’s undocumented bio-cultural diversity. Later, he founded the i-Clean initiative and successfully set-up a door-to-door garbage collection service in Roing town in collaboration with local authorities. In 2017, when the opening of a bridge over the Brahmaputra led to a surge in unruly tourism and its accompanying handmaids – pollution and degradation – Iho and his group of friends worked with the district administration to enact a complete ban on the use of rivers and forests by non-local tourists. With a rare dynamism that stems from his incredible passion for the outdoors, Iho went on to become the first qualified river guide from the Idu Mishmi community. He also participated in a stream of seminars and training sessions that eventually led to the founding of Dibang Adventures. This homegrown start-up focuses on creating sustainable income for the community while safeguarding the exquisite cultural and biological diversity of the region. A grassroots conservationist and eco-entrepreneur, 25-year-old Iho Mitapo is the de facto leader of a generation of young Idu Mishmi men and women who are recognising the threats to their beloved land and rising beautifully to the challenge.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVIII No. 12, December 2018