India’s Purnima Devi Barman among UNEP Champions of the Earth

UNEP focus on reversing ecosystem degradation globally


November 23, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

India’s Purnima Devi Barman among UNEP Champions of the Earth

Indian wildlife biologist Purnima Devi Barman (Photo: UNEP)

Noted Indian wildlife biologist Purnima Devi Barman is among the five winners of 2022 Champions of the Earth award, the highest environmental award of the United Nations, given by the United Nations Environment Programme for their work for ecosystem conservation.

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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has named its 2022 Champions of the Earth, with five persons, including a conservationist, an enterprise, an economist, a women’s rights activist, and a wildlife biologist for their transformative action to prevent, halt and reverse ecosystem degradation.

Wildlife biologist and founder of all-woman conservation group, ‘Hargila Army’ Purnima Devi Barman, who is well-known for her work to save the greater adjutant stork, known as Hargila in north eastern India, figures among the five recipients of the top environmental honour bestowed by the United Nations.

In a statement, the UNEP says that since its inception in 2005, the annual Champions of the Earth award has been awarded to trailblazers at the forefront of efforts to protect our natural world. It is the UN’s highest environmental honour. UNEP adds that to date, the award has recognised 111 laureates including 26 world leaders, 69 individuals and 16 organisations. This year a record 2,200 nominations from around the world were received, it adds.

“Healthy, functional ecosystems are critical to preventing the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity from causing irreversible damage to our planet. This year’s Champions of the Earth give us hope that our relationship with nature can be repaired,” says Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “This year’s Champions demonstrate how reviving ecosystems and supporting nature’s remarkable capacity for regeneration is everyone’s job: governments, the private sector, scientists, communities, NGOs and individuals,” adds Andersen.

The other four winners include a Lebanese environmental enterprise, Arcenciel, whose work to create a cleaner, healthier environment has laid the foundation for the country’s national waste management strategy. UNEP says that Arcenciel recycles more than 80 pc of Lebanon’s potentially infectious hospital waste every year.

Peru’s environmental activist Constantino (Tino) Aucca Chutas has been honoured for pioneering a community reforestation model driven by local and Indigenous communities, which has led to three million trees being planted in the country. Chutas is also leading ambitious reforestation efforts in other Andean countries, says UNEP.

British economist Partha Dasgupta has been honoured by UNEP for his landmark review on the economics of biodiversity that calls for a fundamental rethink of humanity’s relationship with the natural world to prevent critical ecosystems from reaching dangerous tipping points.

UNEP calls Cameroon’s Cecile Bibiane Ndjebet a tireless advocate for the rights of women in Africa to secure land tenure, which is essential if they are to play a role in restoring ecosystems, fighting poverty and mitigating climate change. UNEP says she is also leading efforts to influence policy on gender equality in forest management across 20 African countries.

UNEP says the focus this year is preventing and reversing ecosystem degradation globally as ecosystem on every continent and in every ocean faces massive threats. UNEP adds that every year, the Earth loses forest cover equivalent to the size of Portugal. Oceans are being overfished and polluted, with 11 million tonnes of plastic alone ending up in marine environments annually. It also cautions that over one million species are at risk of extinction as their habitats disappear or become polluted.

Ecosystem restoration is essential for keeping global warming below 2°C and helping societies and economies to adapt to climate change. It is also crucial to fighting hunger as restoration through agroforestry alone has the potential to increase food security for 1.3 billion people. Restoring just 15 pc of converted lands could reduce the risk of species extinction by 60 pc.



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