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Children’s Summit (4 -5 June 2008)

Coinciding with the World Environment Day (June 5), C-NES organized a two day State Children’s Summit with the theme – “Save the river dolphin,” at Guwahati’s Shilpagram. For two days Guwahati played host to nearly 300 school children from across the state – more than half coming from remote villages. The idea behind organizing this unique summit was to involve and mobilize the students and youth in the process of conservation of wildlife and natural resources- to focus attention on the grave threat to the very existence of the river dolphins.

Marked by (environment based) essay writing, drawing and quiz competitions, the summit witnessed a unique and vigorous interactive session between the State Chief Minister, Shri Tarun Gogoi, and the students at an hour- long programme where young boys and girls grilled the political leader on issues as varied as global warming, waste management and cutting of trees for highway construction. Guwahati residents further witnessed a colourful march across the heart of the city by these school children with thought provoking banners calling for protection of the dolphin locally called the xihu. A signature campaign for the same was undertaken by the participants, signed initially by the state Chief Minister. This is a continuous campaign, covering six districts of the state- so far over 1000 signatures have been collected.

The documentary “Children of the River, the Xihus of Assam,” C-NES’ major tool for this campaign was screened at the summit and watched with keen interest by the young crowd.

A press meet for the same was organized at the Guwahati Press Club where Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, C-NES’ Managing Trustee addressed the media along with Dr Sanchita Baruah, Lecturer, Kanoi College, Dibrugarh, Mr. Rashad ul Islam, Lecturer,Cotton College, Guwahati both from the Department Of Zoology, Mr. Manik Boruah, Enterprise Specialist and Mr. Bhaskar Saud, Project Officer, C-NES. The progamme received wide media coverage in Doordarshan, local channels NETV, Newslive and in leading dailies such as the Assam Tribune, Indian Express, The Times of India and vernacular papers like Amar Axom, Dainik Batori and Axomiya Khabar.

The summit was financially supported by Airtel, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s fund), ABITA (Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association), NEDFI (North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd), CEE (Centre for Environmental education, North East) and ASTEC (Assam Science Technology and Environmental Council) among others. Further, NEDFI donated caps, Airtel donated T Shirts, caps and umbrellas, CEE donated the books which were awarded to the winners of the Quiz show along with the light refreshment served to the participants of the awareness march.

New status for the River Dolphin

C-NES’s sustained campaign for the cause of this highly endangered species brought significant results. On June 5, World Environment Day, the Assam Chief Minister, Shri Tarun Gogoi declared it as the State Aquatic Animal at a public function and referred to the organization’s efforts, specifically those of Mr. Hazarika, and his interaction with the school children at the Summit the previous day. “We have to learn from them,” the Chief Minister said, describing how impressed he was with the questions from the children and their focus on environmental issues.

Alternative Livelihoods /Self Help Groups (SHG’s)

The Ford Foundation funded C-NES’s project on “Promoting Conservation: Saving the Gangetic dolphins, creating Livelihoods, eco –tourism” as part of a bigger study on livelihoods continues to bring about gradual economic transformation to rural groups in three districts of Assam- Kamrup, Dhubri and Tinsukia.

Small grants to SHG’s especially women have activated these groups onto backing dolphin conservation as also improved economic empowerment. The SHG’s are into weaving, goat rearing, poultry rising and piggery. This is a new source of income. A total of 51 SHG groups have been formed so far.

Event Photos

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