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31 Jan 2024 | Press releases

Former Deputy Director General of ICIMOD receives India’s prestigious civilian honour

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Dr Eklabya Sharma (left) with the honorable Mr Prem Singh Tamang (right), Chief Minister of the North-East Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, India.

Dr Eklabya Sharma, who worked at leading centre for Hindu Kush Himalaya region for twenty years, has been awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the President of India. The Award is the fourth-highest civilian award of India.

The award is an acknowledgement of an illustrious career devoted to elevating mountain issues both globally and regionally, which saw Sharma represent ICIMOD at five global UNFCCC Conference of Parties (climate COPs) and four CBD Conference of Parties (biodiversity COPs).

“We are extremely pleased and honored to find that Dr Eklabya Sharma, former Deputy Director General ICIMOD, has been bestowed with the coveted Padma Shri on the eve of India’s 75th Republic Day”, expressed Pema Gyamtsho, Director General of ICIMOD. “Dr Sharma’s astute leadership at the ICIMOD for nearly 20 years has lent great deal of strength to the vibrancy of the organization in contributing to the cause of wellbeing of the mountain environment and the people.”

At ICIMOD Sharma also played a central role in drawing focus to the Hindu Kush Himalaya in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, including authoring the first Eastern Himalaya Climate Assessment, Summary Report and Report on Wetlands Biodiversity.

He also worked to ensured flagship international science journals such as Science and Nature carried contributions from HKH scientists and researchers and oversaw ICIMOD’s landmark Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Report – the first comprehensive assessment on the mountains, climate change, sustainability and people. He led country consultations that led to the first HKH Call to Action and the Ministerial Mountain Summit.

Speaking from his home in Siliguri, Sharma said, “ICIMOD is in my blood. And the work it does has never been more important. These high-altitude areas are so sensitive to climate; we’re seeing more and more frequent and high intensity floods; we need to retain our youth in green economic activity, in nature-based solutions – so they conserve nature and get the economic benefit; and with so many biological hotspots here, we need special attention for conservation, for the endemic species that are found only here. If they are lost from here, they are lost from the planet.

“With adaptation, disasters, resilience, conservation, all transboundary issues, regional action, and cooperation, complimentary plans and common objectives – is the path to prosperity.”

Sharma, who joined ICIMOD in 2001 from the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Sikkim Unit (now the GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, Sikkim Regional Centre) as head of the Farming Systems Division in 2001 rose up the organisation, serving as Programme Manager for Natural Resource Management, then Programme Manager for Environmental Change and Ecosystem Services, before assuming the role of Deputy Director General until 2022. He continues to serve as policy adviser to ICIMOD and chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee of GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment.

He is a strong advocate for the inclusion of Indigenous and local knowledge systems in science, decision-making and programmes. “We must bring in the perspectives of the hugely rich cultural lineages found only here,” he said. “If these traditional knowledge systems are lost, the expertise of hundreds and thousands of years of knowledge will be lost with them. Leaving us more exposed and more vulnerable.”

Chief Minister of the North-East Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, Prem Singh Tamang, visited Sharma’s home in person on Monday to congratulate him on the award. Tamang presented Sharma with a letter saying, “It’s a moment of great pride for us as you have been honoured for your contributions towards Himalayan regions’ environmental research and conservation [including] serving as Deputy Director General at ICIMOD.”

“On the behalf of the people of Sikkim, I extend heartfelt congratulations and wish you continued success… as you service humanity with distinction.”

Currently, Dr Sharma is associated with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) as their Strategic Advisor and Distinguished Fellow.

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