Dr Harshwanti Bisht receives the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal 2014

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Professor of Economics, conservationist, and mountaineer, Dr Harshwanti Bisht from Dehra Dun, India, was awarded the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal 2014. The medal was presented by Peter Hilary, mountain climber, philanthropist, author, and son of the late Sir Edmund Hilary, in an event organized by the Mountain Legacy and hosted by ICIMOD on 17 March. The Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal was initiated in 2003 and recognizes Sir Hillary's lifelong commitment to the welfare of mountain people and their environment. The medal is awarded for remarkable service in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions. 

Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD

The Hillary Medal was awarded to Dr Harshwanti Bisht for her philanthropic achievements and work to improve conditions in the Gangotri area of Uttarakhand at the headwaters of the Ganges over the past 25 years. The Save Gangotri project has planted tens of thousands of saplings, organized eco-awareness campaigns, propagated endangered medicinal herbs, and introduced ecotourism standards to an area that had been ravaged by climate change and unregulated pilgrimage tourism. Dr Bisht is also an accomplished mountaineer; in 1981, Harshwanti Bisht, Rekha Sharma, and Chandra Prabha Aitwal were the first three women to summit the main peak of Nanda Devi (7,816 m). Bisht was also a member of the Indian expedition to Mt Everest in 1984. Greatly inspired by the work of Sir Edmund Hillary in conserving the natural environment and in bringing economic opportunities to Sherpa communities, Dr Bisht shifted her focus from recreation to conservation and sustainable high-altitude tourism.