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World Environment Day: advancing environmental restoration in South Asia

Posted: 4 June 2021

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, COVID-19, Environment, Impact,

Since 1974, World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on 5 June, engaging governments, businesses and citizens in an effort to address pressing environmental issues.

In 2021, World Environment Day calls for urgent action to revive the Earth’s damaged ecosystems. With this focus on ecosystem restoration, this year’s theme is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.’

Alumni achievements across South Asia

Across South Asia, Australia Awards alumni are contributing towards ecosystem restoration and other environment protection initiatives to make a difference in their home countries and the wider region.

In Bangladesh, Dr Khalid Hossain is promoting ecological restoration by contributing to the country’s national biodiversity conservation initiatives. Khalid believes that “in the quest for a healthier planet, a healthy ecosystem and rich biodiversity are a must”.

Pema Sherpa works at the Red Panda Network in Nepal, where she is contributing to wildlife and environmental conservation efforts, including for red pandas and other threatened wildlife.

Australia Award alum from Nepal Pema Sherpa

Engineer Saravanapavan Gowripalan oversees engineering projects that are contributing to waste management and sustainable development in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. He has introduced a number of innovative solutions to local environmental challenges.

Environmental professional and university lecturer Fathimath Nistharan’s passion for marine environment protection has led her to be involved in many initiatives that link higher education and environmental management and protection in the Maldives.

Shiva Pariyar is providing forest ecosystems expertise in Nepal in his role at the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment. A vital part of his work involves supporting local communities to actively engage in forest resource management.

Business-savvy hotelier Sanjeeva Perera from Sri Lanka has initiated an environmental and research program at the Cinnamon Dhonveli Hotel in the Maldives that focuses on pre-emptive restoration and rejuvenation of reefs affected by coral bleaching.

Sanjeeva (fourth from left) with this team at the hotel Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives

Upcoming activities to mark World Environment Day

Several alumni associations and Australia Awards country offices in the region are planning activities in the month of June in conjunction with World Environment Day.

The Bhutan Australia Alumni Association, in partnership with Greener Ways and supported by the Australia Awards team, will be implementing a ‘Trash Challenge’ on 5 June. Following its success in 2020 and in alignment to this year’s theme, the challenge will involve alumni and other participants extensively cleaning areas in and around Thimphu to provide a trash-free makeover. The challenge will offer an opportunity to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards our ecosystem and foster positive behavioural change.

The winning team, the Youth Caring Community (YCC), during the Bhutan Australia Alumni Association’s Trash Challenge in 2020

In Bangladesh, Australia Awards will support 15 practitioners to undertake a webinar series on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in emergencies, delivered by RedR Australia, a leading international humanitarian response agency. The course will consist of three webinars, including a session on environmental sanitation to be held on 9 June 2021.

And region-wide, Australia Awards – South Asia staff will participate in ‘Climate Change’ training on 17 June, with a focus on the topic of measuring and minimising the carbon footprint of Scholarships programs. Australia Awards alumnus and industry expert Dr Khalid Hussain from Bangladesh will be attending the virtual event as a guest speaker.

Broader commitment to environmental sustainability

Australia Awards – South Asia and Scope Global have been promoting a culture of environmental awareness by implementing key measures such as:

  • reducing our carbon footprint by conserving electricity, paper and water; recycling consumed materials; and implementing a ‘no plastic’ policy during all our events
  • distributing our internal bi-monthly ‘Environmental Champions’ newsletter featuring good practices, environmentally friendly tips, and achievements of our alumni and scholars in the environmental field
  • communicating our commitment to environmental sustainability to employees, stakeholders and clients.

Australia Awards – South Asia also aims to create linkages and networks between alumni, not only within their countries, but across the region. Since 2015, Australia Awards – South Asia has supported Communities of Practice that link alumni working in similar fields. To date, four Communities of Practice have been established: the Women in Leadership Network, the Inclusive Education Group, Development Innovators, and the Champions for the Environment and Climate Action.

The latter Community of Practice is particularly pertinent, with Champions for the Environment and Climate Action seeing alumni address transboundary and multi-country issues relating to environmental protection and climate action relevant to all countries of the region. For World Environment Day in 2020, Champions for the Environment and Climate Action led an online forum on ‘Biodiversity Conservation in South Asia’ to discuss common environmental issues in the region, concerted actions taking place or needed, the role of women and youth in biodiversity conservation, and best practices from policy to implementation.

Image at top of page thanks to Pixabay