Bhutan-India Initiative Takes Center Stage at Naturenomics Forum

In a resounding call to action, the Balipara Foundation has brought together over 60 participants from 15 countries in a collective effort to restore 1 million hectares of forests and farmlands by 2030. The 11th edition of the annual Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics Forum, held under the theme ‘Great People’s Forest 2030,’ marks a significant stride towards aligning with the UN Decade of Restoration agenda.

The genesis of this ambitious initiative lies in the collaborative Great People’s Forest project, a partnership between the Balipara Foundation and Conservation International, unveiled earlier this year at the G20 summit. With a steadfast commitment to the restoration of 1 million hectares of ecosystems, this groundbreaking initiative has garnered global attention and support.

Ranjit Barthakur, the visionary Founder of the Balipara Foundation, articulated the pivotal role of valuation in Naturenomics during the forum. Stressing the importance of leadership based on value, he affirmed that it will be a decisive factor for success, a sentiment echoed at Bhutan’s Vision 2030 panel.

Chanakya Chaudhary, Director of Tata Steel Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Services at Tata Steel, emphasized the indispensable role businesses play in translating global commitments into actionable measures for climate and biodiversity. He underscored the need for collaboration with communities, respecting their ways of life and livelihoods, to effectively address environmental challenges.

Renowned environmentalist and food sovereignty advocate, Vandana Shiva (PhD), challenged prevailing notions of inferiority and superiority within forests, highlighting their inherently democratic nature. She advocated for initiatives promoting harmony and co-existence between humans and forests, challenging historical separations between the two.

With approximately 1 billion inhabitants residing between the mountainous regions of Bhutan and Nepal and the mangrove-growing areas of India and Bangladesh, these four countries share a colossal connected ecosystem—the Ganges and Brahmaputra. Stretching from the mountainous peaks to the delta in Bangladesh, this interconnected system underscores the importance of collaborative regional efforts for conservation.

The forum delved into key regional levers, exploring sessions on policy and economy, youth power, and technology. Discussions aimed at empowering young environmental leaders and utilizing remote-sensing technology and AI for mapping ecosystem health painted a vision of a regenerative natural capital economy.

The restoration agenda for Bhutan, Bangladesh, and the North East was outlined during the two-day session, focusing on land, energy, waste, water, air, and carbon. Additionally, the Balipara Foundation recognized and awarded active youths contributing to environmental conservation.

Since its inception in 2007, the Balipara Foundation has championed a community-based approach to conservation through the proprietary concepts of Naturenomics. Their impact is tangible, with a 40 percent increase in incomes for farmers and indigenous people, benefiting 35,000 households, and the planting of 2.1 million trees.

As extreme weather events displaced 1.5 million people in the eastern Himalayan region last year, the urgency of the Balipara Foundation’s mission becomes increasingly apparent. The initiative’s goal to involve local government-level forest conservationists by 2030 signals a commitment to tackling environmental challenges at their roots, envisioning a future where the Eastern Himalayas thrive in ecological harmony.

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