Ummedmal Lodha Environmental Award Ceremony
On February 12, Seva Mandir hosted the Ummedmal Lodha Environmental Award Ceremony. The ceremony honored the efforts of individuals and groups in Southern Rajasthan who have made progress on forest and pasture land management. The first ceremony was held in 2000, which marks the latest event as the 14th consecutive year of awards and recognition.
This year, the keynote speaker was Dr. Eshwaran Somnathan, who is a professor at the Indian Statistics Department at New Delhi University. Dr. Somnathan, who received his PhD from Harvard University, has recently been researching forestland management mainly in Nepal. In his speech, Dr. Somnathan discussed how direct community involvement in forestland management explains Nepal’s success with the issue.Therefore Dr. Somnathan, along with Seva Mandir, supports the strengthening of local Forest Protection Committees (FPCs) so that they can better manage their own resources. In accordance with this mission, the staff at Seva Mandir called for a rally following the award ceremony to attract the attention of others on issues of community work for common good.
There were four categories of award recipients at the ceremony: Group, Forest Protection Committees (FPC), Individual, and Scholarship. In total, 8 groups and individuals received awards. The Group category award was given to members of the Bed village of Girwa block for implementing an effective pastureland management policy that was able to slow encroachment on their lands. In the second category, the villagers of the Peepal Was FPC were rewarded. The Peepal Was FPC was established in 1986, and they have been noted for their efforts in fighting encroachment and rehabilitating forestland in their area.
The Individual awards went to people who made major accomplishments in either forest or pasture lands. The first recipient was Mani Shankar of Kotra Block. Mr. Shankar was rewarded for his efforts against a Panchayat that was encroaching on pastureland. He then helped to lead the regeneration of the land surrounding the village of Chikhala. The second recipient was Shanta Devi of Jhabala village in Girwa Block. Shanta Devi has been involved in the management of watershed development and two forest sites for over 10 years. In 2012, she also started a women’s federation to support the development of forestland and watersheds. The third Individual award recipient was Soni Ram from Amalata village of Jhadol Block. With the help of NREGA, Soni Ram lead the redevelopment of pastureland in his community. The fourth recipient was Mawa Ram also of Girwa Block, who led forestland management efforts and developed a community irrigation system in Helpiya village.
In the final category, Seva Mandir awarded two students with a Rs. 12,000 scholarship. The scholarship was established for impoverished girls in the tribal areas of Southern Rajasthan. This year’s awardees were Alka Kumari if Jamun village in Jhadol Block, and Indira Kumari of Palesar village in Kotra Block.