First Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Environment Award from the Himalayan Environment Trust goes to Dr Andreas Schild

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The Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Environment Award was awarded for the first time at a ceremony held at the Headquarters of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) in New Delhi, India, on 14 October 2008 -- marking both the 20th Foundation Day of the Himalayan Environment Trust (HET) and 50 years of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. The annual award is given by the Himalayan Environment Trust to an organisation or individual for an outstanding lifetime contribution to the cause of the Himalayan Environment.

The Honourable Dr. Karan Singh, MP of the Government of India, Advisor to the Trust, and Chairman of the Award Committee presented the award to Dr. Andreas Schild, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for his outstanding contributions, successful leadership, and strong commitment towards sustainable development over the last 30 years. The award was received by Mrs. Florence Tinguely Mattli of the Swiss Embassy on behalf of Dr. Schild. Dr. Singh emphasised the need for trans-Himalayan cooperation to support sustainable mountain development and the need for coordination among the large number of institutions working for this cause in the region. The need of the day is to “distill wisdom from the sea of knowledge”.

Introductory remarks were made by Mr Sushil Gupta of HET, Captain MS Kohli, Chairman of HET, HE Dr Durgesh Mansingh, Ambassador of Nepal to India, HE Mr Rupert Holoborow, Ambassador of New Zealand to India, and HE Mr Bernd Muetzelburg, Ambassador of Germany to India. The speakers highlighted the activities of the Himalayan Environment Trust, ICIMOD and the Trusts’s support for the sustainable mountain development process in the Himalayan region; and the importance of mountain ecosystems in securing sustainability of both uplands and lowlands.

The Chief Guest, Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – (IPCC) which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize – and Director General of The Energy Research Institute (TERI), released the publication ‘Call of the Mountains’ prepared for the 20th Foundation Day of the Trust, with contributions from many distinguished contributors to Himalayan issues, including two from ICIMOD authors. Presenting various figures and projections on in the Himalayan region, he urged all parties concerned to think carefully and work with a trans-boundary approach to address the pressing issues of water and climate change in the Himalayan region, and called for immediate action to save the pristine mountain ecosystem.

Dr Schild, in his Vote of Acceptance, highlighted his debt as a mountain person and Swiss citizen, and the debt we all have, to Sir Edmund Hillary. By climbing Everest together with Tensing Sherpa, Sir Edmund sent a strong message to the world that mountain people are not just helpers but equal partners, and through his subsequent activities, he showed that environmental protection and  development in the Himalayas as elsewhere can only be done with and through the people who live there.

Dr Schild congratulated the Himalayan Environment Trust for taking the initiative to create this important award, which was another indication of the concern and commitment shown by Indian personalities and Institutions for the environment of the Himalayas. The initiative underscored the policy of the Government of India laid down in the National Action Plan for Climate Change and particularly Chapter 8 referring to the Himalayas. “I am proud that by granting me the first award, you include me in these efforts and I can assure you and all my Indian friends that it will be a special privilege for me to look for very close cooperation.”

As Director General of ICIMOD, Dr Schild stressed the importance of transboundary and regional approaches focussing on upstream/downstream relationships in light of the issues being raised by climate change, and looked forward to strengthening efforts together with ICIMOD’s Indian partners at national and regional level. Mitigation of climate change calls for global measures, but adaptation has to start locally. The award symbolised the readiness and eagerness of the Indian authorities to support these common efforts.