Bibhab Talukdar

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Bibhab Talukdar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Bibhab promotes a research-based conservation and ecological security movement that brings together public outreach, government advocacy, and partnerships with related actors in the civil sector. Primarily working in the Eastern Himalayas of northeast India, Bibhab’s organization, Aaranyak, meaning “All About Forests” identifies biological “hot-spots” that often fall across political or geographic boundaries. Using innovative research techniques and well-coordinated outreach campaigns, Bibhab works to illustrate the direct effects of climate change, global warming, deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and local cultural diversity on such areas. The aim is to make recommendations and demonstrate strategic ways to involve the government and civil society in biodiversity conservation.
Bibhab has long recognized the profound relationship between human suffering and ecological destruction: A degraded environment offers few natural resources for further economic development, while poverty often leads to higher pollution and rapacious exploitation of natural wealth. However, few in the region—be they everyday citizens or government officials—are aware of the distinctly human costs of environmental destruction. Bibhab emphasizes the deep connections between the region’s ecology and its local population, and relies on community participation to deliver conservation messages. Early on, he knew that half the solution lay in simply making people aware of environmental degradation. Whereas the state’s conservation programs are neither intelligible nor appealing to ordinary people, Bibhab focuses on hard data, using facts, figures, and graphics to present seemingly abstract problems in real terms.
Much of the inaction on the part of both the public and the government can be traced to our inability to see the daily effects of ecological degradation. To counter the resulting lack of urgency, Bibhab uniquely employs geographical information system (GIS) technology to tangibly illustrate the need for action. For instance, by taking two satellite photographs of an area at an interval of five to seven years, he is able to show the rate of green cover destruction. Communities and policy-makers are then considerably more inclined to contribute to damage control and regeneration efforts, making them key players in Aaranyak’s participatory system. Within a few years, Aaranyak presents the community with another photograph showing what they have accomplished. This long-term strategy establishes an incentive for the participants to continue their efforts, and makes it a sustained process. By combining the data with participatory research initiatives and capacity-building programs, Bibhab powerfully illustrates the correlations between man-made destruction and flash floods, shrinking green cover, and its impact on rainfall, agriculture and other forest resources.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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