Kamal Banik

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Kamal Kanti Banik was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Kamal uses his experience with ecological conservation in India’s northeast to engage the fishing community around the Muhuri River in fish conservation and preservation of freshwater biodiversity. In the past, conservation groups have found it difficult to enlist the support of local communities, in part because it is so difficult to convince people that earning a livelihood and maintaining ecological balance are not mutually exclusive. Kamal established his organization, Dishari, in 1989 with the goal of recruiting the local community to save the river and help the people it supports. His campaign has been unusually effective in linking livelihood and conservation efforts.
Biodiversity in the Muhuri River has been rapidly declining due to pollution and overfishing. Kamal first took up the cause of the Ombok padma, a commercially valuable fish species that has disappeared from seven out of the twelve rivers in the state of Tripura. His efforts to promote captive breeding, river cleanup, and the restoration of the surrounding environment have helped repopulate the river with these fish.
Dishari’s advocacy programs have increased awareness and instilled commitment within the local community to restoring the ecological balance of the river. They have convinced local fishermen to set aside breeding zones and keep the river free of boats during breeding months. They have sustained their commitment to these changes in part because Dishari provides alternative income opportunities while helping them boost their earnings from fishing operations. Dishari also works to educate its members, and, together with women in the community, has set up a microfinance initiative with the encouragement of the Grameen Bank.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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