Rapid Scaling of One of the Largest Conservation Efforts in the History of South Asia Unveiled to World Leaders at COP28
December 9, 2023
DUBAI (Dec. 9, 2023) – The Balipara Foundation and Conservation International have revealed the first detailed plans to rapidly scale The Great People’s Forest of the Eastern Himalayas - one of the largest restoration and conservation efforts in the history of South Asia. Starting in 2024, local organisations will work together to plant 20 million trees, conserve and restore over 61 thousand hectares, and benefit more than 178,000 people. The plans were announced to the global conservation community today as an official announcement of the COP28 UAE Presidency in Dubai.
All the conservation work undertaken through this mission will prioritise the lives and livelihoods of local people, with a pro-nature, pro-economy approach. The portfolio ranges from the mountains to the mangroves and includes detailed plans for plantation of mangroves across the Sundarbans in Bangladesh; restoration of land in Bhutan, West Bengal, and Nagaland; Agroforestry projects to reduce animal human conflict and improve prosperity in Assam; and new nurseries in Bhutan and India to supply the reforesting efforts with native saplings.
In addition, a new Rural Futures Fellowship, will train young leaders from rural and indigenous communities across the Eastern Himalayas in rewilding and agroforestry, to create next-generation environmental leaders with practical experience in restoring forests and farmlands. And 2022 Earthshot Prize winners Kheyti, who are based in this region, will develop a pilot and scaling strategy to make climate-smart greenhouse agriculture work for the Eastern Himalayas and generate climate-resilient livelihoods.
Today’s announcement marks the first steps towards the ambitious goal to raise US$1 billion, plant 1 billion trees, and restore and protect 1 million hectares of land across the Eastern Himalayas. The Great People’s Forest will additionally benefit the 1 billion people who depend on this connected ecosystem and who are among the most climate vulnerable on Earth.
In his speech to delegates at COP 28 UAE, Saurav Malhotra, CEO of the Balipara Foundation, said: “The Eastern Himalayas is an urgent conservation priority. Just two months after launching this historic effort, we are proud to see the first rapid scaling portfolio of the Great People’s Forest will urgently accelerate our work to protect and restore our forests for the benefit of people and the planet. And importantly, what we learn along the way will help us to replicate this effort across the region, so that we can reach our target of 1 billion trees and 1 million hectares by 2030. We are proud to announce these ambitious plans to the global conservation community at COP 28, and will continue to work to put this important region on the global conservation agenda.”
Dr. Richard Jeo, SVP of Conservation International Asia Pacific, said: "The Great People’s Forest has a solid science agenda, informed by local knowledge and academic research, which will underpin new community and regional models for conservation and restoration. Through this, The Great People’s Forest can monitor the overall impact of the initiative, including the benefits for soil, freshwater and other connected ecosystems with clarity, to deliver on the initiative’s broader goals for nature, people and planet."
The portfolio announced today will commence in Spring 2024 and includes:
- Friendship NGO will plant 100 hectares of vital mangrove forest in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh, while enhancing the livelihoods of nearby communities.
- Bhutan Ecological Society will restore more than 1,000 hectares of land into green cover across Bhutan. It will also establish a state-of-the-art nursery to produce upwards of 1 million saplings per year to continue to scale up in future.
- Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment will conserve 17,000 hectares of land under threat and restore 200 hectares of degraded land in the Sikkim, Kalimpong and Darjeeling districts of West Bengal, India.
- Balipara Foundation will restore 4,875 hectares of forest and 1,250 hectares of agroforestry in Assam, India. This will additionally create resilient livelihoods for over 2,500 households through increased productivity, agroforestry and non-timber forest produce and also reduce human elephant conflict.
- Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation will plant 150,820 native tree saplings in 215 hectares of degraded forest areas, including primary forest and private land. This will include a plantation programme with 535 schools to plant over 500,000 trees. In addition, the project will establish a nursery capacity of 200,000 saplings.
- The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) will promote agroforestry plantation, regenerative agricultural practices, and forest conservation activities in Assam and Nagaland. These plans aim to sequester over 500,000 tonnes of carbon, enhance biodiversity, conserve forests and provide livelihood opportunities for local communities. This effort will also be registered with Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) so that the carbon benefits can be shared with the community and ensure their sustainability.
- Balipara Foundation & i-Behind The Ink The Rural Futures Fellowship: will train 74 young leaders across four cohorts of Fellows from rural and indigenous communities across the Eastern Himalayas in rewilding and agroforestry, to create next-generation environmental leaders with practical experience in restoring forests and farmlands.
About Conservation International: Conservation International protects nature for the benefit of humanity. Through science, policy, fieldwork and finance, we spotlight and secure the most important places in nature for the climate, for biodiversity and for people. With offices in 30 countries and projects in more than 100 countries, Conservation International partners with governments, companies, civil society, Indigenous peoples and local communities to help people and nature thrive together. Go to Conservation.org for more, and follow our work on Conservation News, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
About the Great People’s Forest: Led in partnership between Conservation International, Washington DC, USA, and the Balipara Foundation of Assam, India, The Great People’s Forest was launched during India’s historic presidency of the G20 in September. It seeks to raise US$1 billion, plant 1 billion trees, and restore and protect 1 million hectares of land across the Eastern Himalayas, benefitting the 1 billion people who depend on this connected ecosystem and who are among the most climate vulnerable on Earth. Find us at greatpeoplesforest.org and Linkedin
About Balipara Foundation: Balipara Foundation is focused on a community-based approach to conservation which uses a proprietary approach, Naturenomics™ (Nature + Economics). Building on the principle of ecology is economy, the Foundation equips Eastern Himalayan communities making them stalwarts of change in the region. These changemakers conserve and manage their natural assets, creating resilience against the climate crisis for both biodiversity and people. Go to www.baliparafoundation.com for more, and follow our work on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.