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20 Dec 2019 | Press releases

In service of mountains and people

Every year, the ICIMOD Mountain Prize is awarded to an individual, organization, or private sector entity based in the HKH or beyond, for outstanding efforts in enabling sustainable and resilient mountain development in the region to benefit the environment as well as communities—particularly the poor, the youth, and women. This year’s award was shared by two winners – Didar Ali, from Pakistan for his personal contributions to mountain communities, and The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB) of Bangladesh. The winners of the 2019 ICIMOD Mountain Prize were announced on 5 December in Kathmandu.

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Didar Ali (left) receiving the ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2019 from David Molden.

Breaker of taboos

Didar Ali, one of the founding members of the Bulbulik Heritage Centre in Gulmit, Gilgit-Baltistan Pakistan, has dedicated himself to push the boundaries imposed on communities, promote tolerance, and strive for an inclusive and pluralistic society. Ali has done this through his passion for folk music. To a large degree, participation of women and girls in any type of music other than religious recitals has been a major taboo in the mountain regions of Pakistan. Women and girls were prohibited from singing and playing musical instruments in public gatherings. However, thanks to Ali’s work through his Centre’s musical project that started a Folk Music School, he has succeeded in breaking this taboo, and created a secular and safe space for girls and boys to teach and learn music.

Many of the students of the Folk Music School have started touring across different regions of Pakistan as well as neighbouring countries to showcase their talents, which has received positive reviews and lots of encouragement. By setting such a positive example in Gulmit, Didar Ali and his work has become a source of encouragement for many other musicians and actors across Pakistan to come forward, showcase their talents, and play a positive role to help develop a diverse society, where everyone can live with mutual respect and harmony. It is clear that Didar Ali is a true local hero whose role continues to have huge impact on local or regional communities.

From the many nominations, the Selection Committee understood the vast contributions made by Didar Ali in cultural preservation and his innovative approach to folk music promotion and tourism entrepreneurship in a remote mountain area of Pakistan.

For the hill people

Naba Bikram Kishor Tripura (right) receiving the ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2019 on behalf of CHTDB from Eklabya Sharma


Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) covers one-tenth of the total area of Bangladesh. It is culturally, ethnically and topographically diverse and the only hilly and mountainous region of Bangladesh. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB), the apex body for CHT’s development, was established in 1976 and has been responsible for development intervention in rural roads, education, agriculture, supply of safe drinking water, promotion of mountain sports, culture and tourism, health and sanitation, women empowerment, conservation of wildlife, mountain ecosystem, cleaner energy and alternative livelihoods.

Since its inception, CHTDB has been working for the development and welfare of the people belonging to the backward ethnic communities of the entire CHT region. In the last five years, CHTDB implemented 474 long-term and short-term projects targeted at improving the socio-economic condition of the hill people through which remote villages have been connected with sub-districts and district headquarters. This improvement in communication and connectivity has created market linkages for mountain products and thereby improved the livelihoods and household incomes of the hill people of CHT. This over forty year old institution has therefore demonstrated impact across a broad range of work in a marginal area of Bangladesh.

Honourable mention

Himalayan Permaculture Centre wins Honourable Mention at 2019 ICIMOD Mountain Prize

This year also saw a very special honourable mention given to Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC). For the past nine years, HPC has served and helped rural populations of Nepal by offering them a variety of livelihood options to address the complex challenges of physical, societal and economic remoteness, the degradation and loss of forests, out-migration, and climate change. The Centre specifically focuses on marginal communities in Surkhet and Humla and works on a range of locally appropriate resilience building projects. The nomination of HPC was thus deemed relevant across multiple themes with demonstrated bottom-up innovation, and an action oriented approach towards social inclusion.

Our annual ICIMOD Mountain Prize assesses the achievement of the individual, or organization, or company being nominated in any of (but not limited to) the following work areas:

  1. access to water
  2. sustainable production systems for food/nutrition security and income
  3. climate change adaptation
  4. disaster risk reduction
  5. access to clean energy
  6. technologies or innovations, including ICTs, for mountain development
  7. promotion of economic/income generating opportunity or/and investment
  8. policy advocacy
  9. mountain ecosystems/biodiversity conservation

Past winners of the ICIMOD Mountain Prize include Global Himalayan Expedition in 2018.

For more details about the prize, please visit the ICIMOD Mountain Prize page.

For further queries or more information, please contact our Media Unit at media@icimod.org.

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