The “Birdman of Assam,” Anwaruddin Choudhury was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award on Thursday at the 10th edition of NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards.
Institutionalised in 2011, the NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards (formerly RBS Earth Heroes Awards) aims at providing a national platform to champions who have walked the extra mile to protect and conserve India’s rich biodiversity. The award winners were selected by an independent jury comprising eminent personalities from conservation science and management, media, and the government.
The renowned ornithologist, mammologist, artist, civil servant, photographer, and author has contributed immensely in the identification and description of important birds and biodiversity-rich areas in northeast India. He is also a member of as many as nine IUCN/SSC/BLI Specialist Groups and IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group’s South Asian Network.
Speaking with EastMojo, Choudhury thrilled with this achievement said, “I would like to thank the NatWest Group for the award. We normally prefer to work silently, but sometimes such work gets noticed. Once you receive some award, it encourages you to do more work.” He added that many animal and bird species of India are facing a threat to their existence due to the dwindling loss in habitat.
“The Greater Adjutant Stork is one such bird that has lost its usual habitat in the city of Kolkata due to urbanization. Even in Assam, a large number of this species is facing a threat due to the same. A few years back I witnessed a large group of the storks nesting in the garbage dumps of the city; which results in them eating poisonous and toxic substances,” he added. According to him, there are even a large number of “nesting trees” even in Kaziranga National Park for this bird. However, only a few of those nestles the birds as he added that most of them select trees that are near urban areas.
“Awareness is there; however, the action might be a bit lessened,” he added. These common birds also include the common house sparrow, white-winged wood duck which is the state bird of Assam is also facing an imminent threat. Poaching also plays a decisive role in the endangerment of many species. “The villagers poaching as a part of their livelihood and culture is coming down, even poaching for commercial purposes by locals is also diminishing. However, poaching due to International Trades is still rampant, which plays an important role in the diminishing of many species,” the Birdman of Assam added.
We were able to ask his views on the impact on biodiversity due to the recent oil spill in Baghjan. “The area is a grassland. So the impact will reduce in due course of time. However, the disasters it caused in its wake will be the major hurdle one needs to recover from,” he said.
Due to Choudhury’s undying works, at least 12 wildlife sanctuaries and two elephant reserves have been established. He was also instrumental in upgrading Dibru-Saikhowa into a National Park, the inclusion of Laokhowa and Burhachapori Sanctuaries in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, and the declaration of the white-winged wood duck as the state bird of Assam.
Sunil Kumar, the Head of Sustainable Banking, NatWest Group India and CEO, RBS Foundation India, said that the organisation works mainly with the communities which are directly and intrinsically associated with a particular environmental community. “This can be in the form of earning a livelihood from the protected areas or the problems faced by the communities of that particular natural ecosystem.”
The organisation works to provide alternative ways to sustain their livelihood all along, reducing their dependence on the natural ecosystem. This, in combination with the law and technical know-how by the members, helps communities in reaching independence and take a step towards sustainable development. “We engage with the communities to reduce their dependence in the natural ecosystem, provide alternative ways to earn income and also provide skill development classes to the younger generations,” Kumar added.
“India is an enigmatic country with diverse populations, environmental conditions, local variations, and terrains. Hence a law, action, or a rule which might be successful in a certain part of the nation might not bring the same results in a different part of the country,” he said. Kumar added that the Indian government is working their best in reaching and meet the sustainable development goals of the country. However, it’s the diversity of the great nation that creates some hurdles in the smooth flow.
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