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Environmental journalists in Agra, India receive awards on World Environment Day 2007

Vasudha Mehta of Wildlife S.O.S giving the Vote of Thanks at the event (Photo: Wildlife SOS)On the occasion of World Environment Day 2007, in the first event of its kind in Agra, Wildlife SOS and International Animal Rescue honoured distinguished media figures in Agra with the ’Yamuna Rakshak Samman 2007.’ The event was held in collaboration with the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

The awards, comprising of certificates of appreciation and mementos, were given in recognition of their outstanding contribution towards awareness-raising on various environment issues that can make Agra a better place to live.

Agra boasts three major Hindi dailies - Hindustan, Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala - and DLA is a recently launched Hindi mid-afternoon daily.

Journalists awarded from the Hindi print media included Rajeev Saxena (Dainik Jagran), Ram Kumar Sharma, Sanmay Prakash and Anshu Pareek (Hindustan), Dr Surendra Singh (Amar Ujala) and Raj Kumar Sharma (DLA).

Pictures add weight to environmental news reports. Brajesh Kumar Singh (DLA), Aslam Salimi (Dainik Jagran) and Vishal Khandelwal (Agra Plus) were given awards for their photography which has helped bring every news story to life.

The recipients of awards from the electronic media included Rishi Dixit (Sahara TV), Jasvir Singh Jassi (Moon Cable Network) and Shashi Kant Upadhyaya (Sea Cable Network).

Also honoured at the function were journalists covering the rich cultural and historical heritage of the famous city of the Taj. They were Mahesh Dhakar (Hindustan), Adarsh Nandan Gupta (Dainik Jagran) and Kumar Lalit Bansal (DLA).

Jasvir Singh Jassi (Moon Cable Network), an awardee from the Electronic Media Category speaks after receiving the award (Photo: Wildlife SOS)Agra, renowned for the glorious Taj Mahal, has constantly been in the environmental spotlight for the wrong reasons, be it for the polluted Yamuna River stretch or the poor sanitation and municipal waste disposal conditions. Unlike in other towns and cities across India, all local media dailies and TV channels in Agra have a specialised environment team which is playing a significant role in sensitising people on environment and wildlife-related issues affecting the city. It is also mobilising them to speak up and take action to improve rundown and neglected areas of the city and also support initiatives being undertaken by small groups to do so.

Speaking at the event, Chief Guest Dr R S Pareek, internationally renowned Homoeopath and President of the Agra Citizens’ Council, called on people to treat their city with the same respect that they have for their homes. "Every small effort counts. If each one of us on a daily basis thinks of doing one small deed to save the environment, be it saving a drop of water from being wasted or reusing a polybag or a waste piece of paper, we can all contribute to saving our planet from extinction." Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said, "This event would not have been possible without the prompt support offered to us by Wildlife SOS and International Animal Rescue. We hope that from now on these awards will be an annual event".

In her Vote of Thanks, Vasudha Mehta, representative of Wildlife SOS, said, "People fighting for nature and the environment need recognition to keep them motivated and prevent their spirits from flagging. We hope that these awards will inspire the journalists of Agra to continue using their skills to keep the public informed of wildlife and environmental issues. We want to encourage them to take action to solve problems and support organisations like Wildlife SOS and International Animal Rescue who have been working diligently for the past five years to rescue Sloth Bears from the cruel and illegal Dancing Bear Trade ". Dancing Bears were once found all along the famous Delhi-Agra-Jaipur Highway but now, thanks to the collaborative pilot project undertaken by Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, all these bears have been rescued and rehabilitated at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, whose operations are primarily funded by International Animal Rescue. Other international funders of Wildlife SOS’s Bear and Kalandar Rehabilitation projects are Free the Bears - Australia, Humane Society International - Australia and One Voice Association - France.