Guwahati: Creating milestones in the field of environment and wildlife, Assam lad Mridul Bora is among the 30 leaders under 30 years of age who are using environmental education to build sustainable and equitable communities around the world.
His name appeared in the fifth class of the prestigious North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) along with two other Indians. From healing-centered outdoor education for the youth of incarcerated parents in Texas to sustainable rice production in Taiwan, these leaders are using environmental education to address complex sustainability issues in their communities around the world. The awardees in this year’s EE 30 Under 30 Class of 2020 range in age from 13 to 30.
The awardees in the NAAEE 30 Under 30 Class of 2020 include social entrepreneurs, artists, researchers, and educators from 14 countries. They will join the global EE 30 Under 30 community of leaders, and will receive ongoing support to expand their impact through networking, peer mentoring, professional development, and grant opportunities.
Talking about his journey into the field with EastMojo an elated Bora recounts his first days. “My journey started during my high school days roaming around nearby forests. In 2010, I joined several NGOs as a volunteer and started participating in various conservation initiatives. Starting in 2012, I became an active part of a Greater Adjutant stork conservation project which was led by Whiteley and Presidential Nari Shakti Awardee, Dr. Purnima Devi Barman. I got involved in community programs, especially around environmental education and capacity building,” Bora said.
In 2014 Bora’s research paper entitled “Studies on the distributional pattern and habitat utilization pattern by Indian Leopard (Panthera purdus fusca) in Nilachal hill, Kamrup, Assam, India” was published in a National conference and also got the best paper award. Additionally, “my research on human leopard conflict was presented at SCCS Bangalore 2014, largest conference on Conservation science. In 2015 my research on conflict was selected for SCCS Cambridge and SCCS Hungary.”
In 2015, Bora spearheaded a first of its kind campaign which was catered to address human leopard conflict mitigation in Assam. “Save The Phantom” campaign was funded by the Wildlife Trust of India and David shepherd wildlife foundation under RAP (Rapid Action Program). Bora noticed that human-leopard conflicts in Assam were always in the news but no one was addressing the issue. Moreover, livestock predation by leopards peaked and led to retaliatory killings. “Negative portrayals of the species by the media and an increasing gap between the community and other stakeholders were making the matter worse,” Bora added.
Bora along with his peers conducted 48 awareness programs altogether. They even set up 18 local volunteer groups which will provide information as to whom to call when a leopard is seen, whom to report of a leopard conflict etc. They were able to make people aware that the mob killing of leopard is not the option as it was us human beings who were encroaching their territories. “We were even able to set up an all-women local volunteer group in Maligaon Pandu which is actually the most active group so far,” he added.
The main reason behind the campaign was to make people aware of the habits of leopards, create awareness, reducing the communication gap between localities, Forrest officials, Zoo authorities, Police officials, and media as well. Bora said, “We even did a media orientation program as well to make journalists aware of the ways to report animal conflict news.”
Seeing the positive success rates (lower leopard deaths caused by mobs) WWF India Assam and Arunachal Pradesh State Office (AAPSO) in 2017 funded a project “Harmony with Leopard.” They took inspiration from Bora’s campaign model and even made him the Project Coordinator.
Bora is a trailblazer in this field as he has also been active in resolving issues related to man-elephant conflicts, and is also the General Secretary of NGO PHANTOM. He is a documentary filmmaker and has a travel agency as well.
“The biggest blessing in my name being selected is the fact that now I have access to environmental trailblazers from across the world, which will be of great help in terms of knowledge exchange and using new and updated practical knowledge in the field,” said the 29-year-old Bora.