Nitish Kumar, DFO from the Govt of Odisha, bags the “Green Warrior” Award at NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards 2021

Bhubaneswar: NatWest Group India, (formerly RBS India) the global capability centre of the NatWest Group, today announced the winners of the 11th edition of the NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards. Mr. Nitish Kumar, serving in the Indian Forest Service as Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Kalahandi North Division, Forest & Environment Department, Government of Odisha, was awarded the “Green Warrior” this year. Celebrating efforts in Biodiversity – A resilient nature is the foundation on which all climate mitigation and adaptation efforts must be raised”, theme for the 2021 awards, the eight winners were felicitated via a virtual ceremony that was graced by the Chief Guest, Ms. Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General, Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), UN.


The annual awards are a national initiative that recognises efforts of individuals and institutions across India who are working tirelessly to subvert climate change by conserving and preserving the rich biodiversity of the country for a better relationship between the society and nature.


Mr. Nitish Kumar joined the Odisha Forest Service in 2014 as an Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF).  Throughout his service, he has been known for his invaluable contributions towards afforestation, infrastructure development, enforcement (protection), and converting technology into conservation outcomes in the Kalahandi North Division. From 2018 to 2020, he  has worked extensively on soil and moisture conservation to improve wildlife habitat of the Kalahandi North Division. He was instrumental in formulating Fire Control Rapid Response team in the area as forest fires are a major cause of wildlife habitat degradation in the Kalahandi North Division. He was also the first to introduce drone technology in the Odisha Forest Department, used for plant health mapping in the elephant habitat area/s and waterbody construction basis the elephant movement data analysis and elephant density mapping. The monitoring of elephant movement through cameras and infrared and night vision drones have helped him curb human-elephant conflict by giving early warning to communities. Furthermore, with the help of NOAA-20 Satellite from NASA, he and his team were able to quickly identify, understand, and respond to fire points in the area. Mr. Kumar’s publication titled “Applications of GIS & Drone Technology in Forestry & Wildlife” was launched in the 2019 Wildlife Week, and was later sent to SPRINGER.


Thrilled with this achievement, Mr. Nitish Kumar said, “I am humbled, and I thank the NatWest Group and jury members for selecting me for the ‘Green Warrior’ Earth Hero Award. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Government of Odisha for giving me this opportunity and supporting me. Forest and wildlife management is a challenging task, which has only encouraged me to explore different types of technological interventions. I believe that technology can help build efficiency and is beneficial for forestry and wildlife management.”

On the occasion, the honourable Chief Guest, Ms. Ivonne Higuero, said, “I am delighted to be a part of NatWest Group India’s initiative and to present the awards to all the winners for their dedication and hardwork to advance biodiversity protection in the country. As we continue to fight challenges posed by the global pandemic, it is important to remember the individuals and institutions that continue to strive in order to secure a future for wildlife and communities they support.”


Speaking on the occasion, N Sunil Kumar, Head of Sustainable Banking India & Head of NatWest India Foundation, said, “The recent report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ which signalled irreversible impacts of climate crisis, is a worrying sign for all the policy makers in the world. The world, and India in particular, needs to step up efforts when it comes to mitigating global warming and climate risks. It has become imperative for us to protect nature, heritage, and the wildlife ecosystem around us in order to bring a positive change. The Earth Heroes Awards are a way to celebrate, recognise, and further inspire and motivate the leaders of tomorrow for their outstanding work in preserving India’s biodiversity and critical natural ecosystems. I wholeheartedly congratulate the 2021 winners and look forward to more Indians taking up this cause.”  


Winners of the 2021 NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards:


Winners Location Award Category
Nitish Kumar Odisha Green Warrior
Shilpa SL Karnataka Green Warrior
Satpura Tiger Reserve Madhya Pradesh Earth Guardian
Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation Kerala Earth Guardian
Arunima Singh Uttar Pradesh Save the Species
Anil Bishnoi Rajasthan Save the Species
Karma Sonam Ladakh Inspire
Brij Mohan Singh Rathore Madhya Pradesh Lifetime Achievement


Commenting on the initiative, Punit Sood, Head of India, NatWest Group, said, “We at NatWest Group recognise the need for urgent action to tackle climate change. As a global organisation, we are committed to addressing conservation and sustainability challenges and the Earth Heroes Awards are a testimony of our support of the exemplary individuals and institutions who have dedicated themselves to such a great cause. We hope to encourage further efforts in contributing towards biodiversity and conservation.”


Institutionalised in 2011, the NatWest Group Earth Heroes Awards (formerly RBS Earth Heroes Awards) is in its 11th year and continues to provide a national platform to champions who have walked the extra mile to protect and conserve India’s rich biodiversity. The award winners were selected by an independent jury comprising of eminent personalities from conservation science and management, media, and the government.


In 2007, NatWest Group (formerly RBS Group) set up the NatWest India Foundation (formerly RBS Foundation India) to contribute to India’s UN Sustainable Development Goals (then Millennium Development Goals) with a focus at the intersection of critical natural ecosystems and excluded communities. Working on improving livelihoods and sustainable use/conservation of natural resources, the Foundation has impacted over 1,82,000 families across 2,100 villages in 13 states through 23 ongoing projects, some of which have been recognised by the United Nations Development Programme and UN World Tourism Organization awards besides the national awards.


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