In the final session of India Rivers Week on Nov 27, 2022 afternoon, the jury of the India Rivers Forum announced the Bhagirath Prayas Samman (BPS) awards for exemplary river conservation work to SCOPE (Kolkata) in Organisation category for work related to East Kolkata Wetlands and to Prof Venkatesh Dutta in individual category for work related to Gomti river in Uttar Pradesh. The Anupam Mishra Medal 2022 for the exemplary media work on rivers was given to Dheeraj Mishra for his extensive river focussed work over the years. Chief Guest Justice (Retd) Madan Lokur of Supreme Court of India and all the attendees of India Rivers Forum congratulated the award winners for well-deserved recognition. Siddhart Agarwal conducted the award ceremony on behalf of IRF and Prof Amita Baviskar chaired the entire final session of IRF 2022.
BPS and AMM journey so far IRF, now a group of ten organisations (INTACH, WWF-India, Toxics Link, SANDRP, Peace Institute, People Science Institute, Water Conflicts Forum, Veditum, ATREE and IIHS) began giving BPS awards since 2014 when the India Rivers Week started, to unsung heroes for exemplary river conservation & protection work on a sustained basis, in two categories: Organisation and Individual. Since 2017 after sad demise of Shri Anupam Mishra, who was closely associated with IRW since inception and who was chair of the Jury of the IRW, it was decided to institute an award after his name for exemplary media work related to rivers. For both awards, there nominations are invited from across India and based on a criteria, the jury decides about the awardees. The awards are announced each year at the concluding session of the India Rivers Week. IRW has been fortunate to have the guidance of Justice Lokur at several of IRF functions over the years since 2014. The BPS and AMM awards are accompanied by a plaque and BPS award also carries a cash component.
The IRF has been honoured to have been associated with a large number of organisations and individuals who were given the BPS over the years as per the following table.
The geographical distribution of the BPS awards so far (2014-2021) can be seen from the following map.
BPS Award 2022 to SCOPE-Kolkata The citation from the India Rivers Forum for the BPS award 2022 in organisation category (see the photo of full citation below) to Society for Creative Opportunities and Participatory Ecosystems (SCOPE-Kolkata) said, among other things: “Founded by the late Dhrubajyoti Ghosh, known as the ecologist of the poor, SCOPE (Kolkata) has been fighting for decades to save this ecosystem from encroachment and destruction. It successfully stopped and challenged a number of projects that would have adversely affected an ecosystem vital to local livelihoods and to the sustainable management of urban waste. It has educated, engaged, and empowered people to work for the protection of these wetlands. Through public awareness campaigns, helping the affected people in public interest litigation, partnering with government agencies, it has defended and championed a remarkable model of social and ecological well-being, an exemplar of community-based knowledge and action. It is our honour to recognise the heroic efforts of SCOPE (Kolkata) to protect the East Kolkata Wetlands in West Bengal. It is an inspiring example of how Indian cities can live sustainably with riverine ecologies and the communities who depend on them.”
Dhruba Das Gupta, in acceptance speech on behalf of SCOPE (Kolkata), invoking the rivers of India, said that in addition to the name of Dr Dhruba Jyoti Ghosh mentioned in the citation of the award, to whom SCOPE dedicates the award, she would also like to mention Dr Kalyan Bagchi, a former IAS officer who served with Dr Ghosh, who has never appeared in the limelight in spite of his significant contribution to understanding the importance of East Kolkata Wetlands.
She said they have been striving to show that East Kolkata Wetlands provides an example of viable and community oriented model for sewage treatment and for keeping the rivers clean. This is the message we carry all through our work. Our core emphasis is on empowering the community, who has worked for over a hundred years to keep this system alive. This was a brackish water system earlier and was transformed to a sewage fed system with some remarkable engineering over a hundred years ago. This is our message to the entire India Rivers Forum community, this is what we work with, thriving wetland system & Rivers, empowering the communities. The fundamental message that Dr Ghosh used to give was living creatively with the nature. This award energises us to do more and to keep on connecting wetlands and rivers. We, on behalf of SCOPE and the wetlands community thank the India Rivers Forum and India Rivers Week 2022 and wish them to continue the tremendous work that they have been doing.
BPS award 2022 to Prof Venkatesh Dutta The citation (see the photo below for the full citation) from IRF for the BPS Award 2022 to Prof Venkatesh Dutta said among other things: “With meagre resources but tireless efforts, Venkatesh Datta has accomplished the difficult task of building awareness about the Gomti Basin among its residents and those who shape its fate. His crusade has helped illuminate the vital links between rivers, ecology and people. His work is an inspiration for everyone who cares about rivers. It is our honour to recognise and celebrate Ventakesh Datta’s unsung Bhagirath Prayaas to protect the River, People and Environment in the Gomti River Basin in Uttar Pradesh.”
Venkatesh Dutta in his acceptance speech said: This award brings responsibility and anxiety to ensure that we intensify the prayas and critical mass of action for which this award is being given. It is part of my work to ensure that the entire river commons are part of our mainstream policy landscape. IRW and IRF are voice of the rivers and collective space of river communities, including serious river activists, researches, practitioners and academicians working on a river commoning process. Rivers are increasingly being transformed from a socio-natural entities to urban rivers meant for an elite few. We are dehydrating the entire mosaic of fluvial systems for large civil engineering projects in the name of hydrating our economies on false promise of increasing GDPs. It is such a pity that the research and academia are not coming forward in required scale to counter such destructive forces. Our institutions have failed to fight the large environmental injustice. This award encourages me to continue my efforts on conservation of smaller rivers. I also wish to develop a river library with this award to make the books and other documents on river struggles and the science of fluvial ecosystems available to anyone interested in working for the cause of rivers.
Anupam Mishra Medal 2022 to Dheeraj Mishra The citation (for full citation see the photo below) for Dheeraj Mishra for the Anupam Mishra Medal 2022 said among other things: “Since 2017, Dheeraj Mishra has reported in depth and with verve on the state of Indian rivers. Marshalling government data through the Right to Information Act and gathering information from the field, he has compellingly critiqued government schemes that threaten the health and integrity of rivers. His informed and objective investigation of programmes around cleaning the Ganga, and projects for inland navigation, river interlinking, and hydropower generation, has been a valuable contribution to public debate on these issues… His fearless, well-researched and dedicated reporting on rivers in the prevailing milieu makes him worthy of the Anupam Mishra Medal. It is an honour to celebrate Dheeraj Mishra’s investigative reporting and commitment in enriching public discourse on the state of our rivers by presenting him the Anupam Mishra Memorial Medal 2022.”
Anupam Mishra Medal 2022 winner Dheeraj Mishra said in his acceptance speech: I feel particularly honoured getting this medal named after my hero Anupam ji. Anupam ji would deliver very profound messages in simplest of languages, for example, when he said the society that knew how to swim is drowning, it was a message not for any particular section of society, but for the whole society. Dheeraj said this is not just an award, but very big responsibility and I wish to promise that in whatever reporting I do in future, the rivers will have central place. He said I am thankful to the India Rivers Forum and the jury that they found my work worthwhile for this award.
APPEAL IRF would like to appeal to all concerned to please nominate those deserving BPS and AMM awards in years to come.