The Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) community suffered a great loss in 2016 with the passing away of its esteemed and visionary leader, elder, and guiding light. Dr RS Tolia conceptualized the idea of IMI, got like-minded people on board and led it from the front as its founding President. His passion and commitment towards improving the lives of mountain communities is what drove him and continues to drive IMI today. His vision and commitment for the formation of a pan-Indian mountain movement not only unified diverse mountain states of India but also inspired others. His deep understanding of the links among people, cultures, livelihoods and mountain environment undoubtedly influenced a generation of researchers, organizations and policymakers.
To encourage passionate individuals to carry forward the cause of integrated mountain development, in 2017 IMI resolved to institute the ‘Dr RS Tolia Award’ to recognize efforts that have made an impact in integrating and addressing the issues of mountain communities.
The purpose of the award is to recognize and reward the exemplary work of individuals whose work has created an impact / has the potential to impact sustainable prosperity and well-being of the people of the Mountain states in India. In exceptional cases organizations can also be considered. However, the preference will be to recognise individuals.
The award is not restricted to any particular sectors or fields of action. Innovation at grass root levels with widespread application/ impact as well as policy advocacy aimed at addressing issues and challenges of mountain states in India, are eligible for consideration for the award.
Applications/ nominations are called for in April of every year for the award.
The selection of an awardee is made by an independent, non-IMI jury of eminent individuals. Jury’s decision is final and binding.
The value of the award is INR 1 lakh, and a certificate.
A modest Dr. R.S.Tolia Corpus, contributed by a few generous members of IMI, takes care of the award expenses. We would certainly like to enhance the award money, and therefore appeal to all who wish to support mountain causes, to contribute to Dr.R.S.Tolia Corpus. For any information in this regard, kindly contact the Secretary, IMI on email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019 Awardee - Shri Sachidanand Bharati
Based in Gadkharak village in Ufrainkhal Pauri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, Shri Sachidanand Bharati’s journey started in 1973 while still a student, with the widely popular Chipko movement where he first came in contact with Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal, the mother institute of Chipko movement. Following that, he became actively involved with Dasholi Gram Swaraj Mandal, and participated in a plantation camp in Joshimath that lasted for 45 days – an area that is today covered by thick forests. In 1978 he formed the ‘Dalyun Ka Dagdya’ (Friends of Tree) organization to disseminate eco-friendly practices and forest conservation consciousness among the masses. This led to development of nurseries and women’s organisations centred on forest conservation in many villages. This organization still exists and continues to engage in areas of forest conservation.
Followed by his key participation in the Chipko Movement, and driven towards forest conservation Sachidanand Bharati launched an environment camp at Doodhatoli in 1980, which was later institutionalised in the form of an organisation named “Doodhatoli Lok Vikas Sansthan” in 1982. The environment camps held by his organization become the platform for research and action, while integrating the themes of the camps with the life of the villagers.
After the drought of 1987, he realised the importance of water conservation and its close link with forest conservation. Therefore, in 1989, he initiated the Paani Rakho Movement. With the help of villagers he dug chaal khaals (rain water harvesting ditches) to conserve water. As efforts started to yield results, more villages joined his Paani Rakho initiative. Today a total of 136 villages are a part of his water conservation project. This movement has led to digging of more than 30,000 ditches in the hills along with tree plantation drives. Every year 100-150 new ditches are dug which not only helps to maintain the water in the local water sources but also caters to the daily water needs of villagers. The widely successful water conservation programme in Doodhatoli region has not only provided water abundantly for the flora and fauna, but also protected the forest land from forest fires. A local monsoonal river called Sukha raula which would be dry in the winter months has now become a regular river called Gaad Ganga as a result of the “Paani Rakho” Programme. This wide-spread campaign resulted in effective water conservation in 35 villages by digging 30,000 chaal-khal ditches.
His life-long dedication to spreading forest and water conservation consciousness from village to village has not only led to revival of forests and water resources in the area, but it has also led to societal changes which will continue to have an impact for years to come.
Shri Sachidanand Bharati’s work has found ways to incorporate traditional local solutions and apply them in innovative ways to address environmental, social and economic issues for creating a feasible way for forest and water conservation, ultimately leading to sustainable mountain development.
2017 Awardee - AVANI
AVANI started its journey as the Kumaon chapter of The Social Work and Research Center (SWRC), Tilonia, Rajasthan in January 1997. It had its beginnings in Pithoragarh with the main goal of strengthening local economy and which ultimately resulted in the revival of hand spinning, weaving for income generation with 20 families. Earthcraft, a self-reliant cooperative with 1400 families in 64 villages, supporting 1500 artisans 95% of whom are women. Not only does it integrate technology and livelihood within Households, but it is Zero Waste. It believes it LOCAL People, LOCAL Resources and LOCAL Skills.
Notable achievements of Avani works in are:
Working on Development of New Technologies
Promotion of Solar Energy
Rain Water Harvesting & Waste Water Recycling
Production of Energy from Gasification of Pine Needles
Formation of Avani Bio Energy Pvt Ltd
Producing and Selling Electricity from Pine Needles to the Grid – Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd
Established two 10 kW power plants
Creation of Alternative Livelihoods
Empowering Women and Girls: Economic Independence
Addressing Out Migration
Preserving Local Ecosystems and limiting Bio-diversity Loss
Holistic Approach: Addressing Social, Environmental, and Economic Issues
Creating Feasible and Realistic Solution to Eradicating Poverty