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India’s Purnima Devi Barman is one of UNEP’s ‘Champions of the Earth’ for 2022

India’s Purnima Devi Barman is one of UNEP’s ‘Champions of the Earth’ for 2022: India’s Purnima Devi Barman, an Assam-based wildlife biologist, is one of the five ‘Champions of the Earth’ for this year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on November 22. The annual awards are the highest environmental honour that the UNEP confers on individuals and organisations whose actions have a “transformative impact” on the environment. She has been honoured in the Entrepreneurial Vision category.

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The other honourees include Arcenciel (Lebanon); Constantino (Tino) Aucca Chutas (Peru); Sir Partha Dasgupta of the United Kingdom and Cecile Bibiane Ndjebet (Cameroon).

About the Purnima Devi Barman:

  • Barman has been working with local communities – women, specifically – in Assam for more than a decade now to conserve the greater adjutant stork, an endangered wetland bird whose numbers have been declining due to habitat destruction and cutting down of nesting trees. The entire team is “extremely honoured” to win the award.
  • This year, Barman received the award in the area of ‘Entrepreneurial Vision’ for her pioneering work in protecting the larger adjutant stork, known as ‘hargila’ in Assamese. Hargilas are five-foot-tall birds that dwell in wetlands in some parts of southeast Asia including India and Cambodia.
  • There are only 1,200-odd hargilas remaining in the world, as per a 2016 IUCN Red List update which lists the bird as ‘Endangered’. Hargilas are found in Assam and Bihar in India. According to Barman, Assam has the largest population of these birds, with roughly 1,000 individuals.

About the Champions of the Earth award:

According to UNEP, the yearly Champions of the Earth award has been given to trailblazers in the vanguard of efforts to conserve our natural world since its inception in 2005.  It is the UN’s highest environmental honour. To date, the award has recognised 111 laureates: 26 world leaders, 69 individuals and 16 organisations. This year a record 2,200 nominations from around the world were received.

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