Staff Reporter GUWAHATI, July 31 - An unheralded conservationist, Rajen Bodo of Tangla in Udalguri district who has been in the forefront of efforts taken towards easing the man-elephant conflict in the district, was honoured with the first BK Handique Memorial Award for Leadership in Wildlife Conservation at a function held at the Pragjyoti-ITA Centre for Performing Arts here yesterday evening.
Rajen Bodo receiving the award.
The award, instituted by the Development Foundation of Assam (DFA), seeks to recognise efforts of unsung heroes of conservation working in difficult, remote areas. A short film by Gautom Bora on the man-elephant conflict along the Indo-Bhutan border areas in Udalguri and the role played by Bodo was also screened on the occasion.
Dr Mridul Hazarika, Vice Chancellor of Gauhati University and Justice (retd) Dhiresh Narayan Choudhury of Gauhati High Court, presented the award to Bodo. The award comprises a trophy, a citation and Rs 1 lakh.
Addressing the function as chief guest, Dr Hazarika lauded Bodo’s efforts and said that the acknowledgement of his initiatives involving community participation would give a further boost to conservation.
Dr Hazarika, while calling for a balanced approach of development for safeguarding the interests of the natural environment, rued that the ongoing development process in the country is riding roughshod over environmental concerns.
“It is possible to balance both and many countries are doing that. Sadly, In India, environmental concerns are not being adequately addressed,” he said.
Dr Hazarika also underlined the urgent need for sensitising the younger generations, especially children, on the environment so that it could lead to an enduring legacy vis-à-vis conservation. “If you mould the young minds at an early stage, they will be the best guarantee against environmental degradation,” he said.
Bodo thanked the organisers and said the award would help put sustained focus on the pressing conservation issues in remote areas bordering Bhutan. “I am trying my best to involve the communities in conservation, especially in checking man-elephant conflict, and the endeavour is showing positive results,” he said. “I am also proud that my name will be associated with the legacy of the late BK Handique, parliamentarian and a conservation crusader,” he added.
Guest of honour Justice Choudhury stressed protection of the environment in the face of growing anthropogenic pressures. “It is possible for elephants and humans to coexist peacefully. The problem has its roots in the intrusion of humans into wildlife habitats and the resultant loss of forest cover. We all must resolve to protect and regenerate forests,” he said.
DFA president Geetartha Darshan Barua also spoke.