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Assam ecologist nominated for IUCN award
SIVASISH THAKUR
 GUWAHATI, Aug 25 - Ecologist Dr Bibhuti Lahkar, who has been engaged with local communities on the fringes of the Manas National Park to boost its conservation, is among five conservationists across the world to be nominated for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s prestigious Heritage Heroes awards.

The award will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in Hawaii from September 1 to 10.

The other nominees are Bantu Lukambo and Josue Kambasu Mukura of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Yulia Naberezhnaya and Andrey Rudomahka of Western Caucasus in the Russian Federation.

The recipient for the award will be selected through voting, which has already started and will continue till August 31.

The first conservationist from Assam to be nominated for the IUCN honour, Dr Lahkar, who works with conservation NGO Aaranyak, acknowledged his enduring association with Manas – also a World Heritage Site – as a definitive factor that has helped him gain the nomination.

“I am proud and honoured to be associated with Manas, especially with its revival process for well over a decade now. The Heritage Hero award is an inspiring initiative, and I am even happier that my nomination has put the focus on community-based conservation in Manas,” Dr Lahkar told The Assam Tribune.

As an ecologist, Dr Lahkar has intensively studied the grasslands of Manas and is recognised today as an expert for the threatened flora and fauna of the Terai region along the southern foothills of the Himalayas.

According to Dr Lahkar, long-term conservation of flora and fauna warrants whole-hearted involvement of the local inhabitants as active stakeholders. “Manas is the lifeline of Bodoland and research alone cannot guarantee long-term conservation. It is the active involvement of locals that can boost and sustain conservation in today’s threatened environs,” he said.

Formed in 1948, IUCN is the global authority on the conservation status of natural heritage sites and provides measures to safeguard them.

The Heritage Heroes award is aimed at recognising the “outstanding efforts” around the world in making a difference in the conservation of World Heritage Sites in challenging situations.

Dr Lahkar has been associated with Manas for 18 years as an ecologist of Aaranyak. Manas was declared a World Heritage Site in Danger in 1992 following large-scale destruction of wildlife, habitat and park infrastructure during a prolonged period of social unrest from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. It, however, successfully got back the coveted WHS status in 2011.

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