GUWAHATI, Dec 21 � Mubina Akhtar and Arup Shandilya were today honoured with the tenth RN Borooah and Protiva Borooah Memorial Awards for best reporting on environment, tourism and conservation of nature, and best reporting on uplift of the poor and the needy for 2010 respectively.
The awardees were formally conferred with the awards at a function presided over by veteran journalist DN Chakravartty at the Vivekananda Kendra auditorium.
Speaking as the chief guest, State Information Commissioner and former Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam, MC Malakar stressed the need for a concerted effort to protect the environment. Referring to the State�s rich biodiversity in the form of its diverse flora and fauna, he said that its actual forest cover would be hardly 15 per cent even though officially it is shown as some 24 per cent.
�There are vast stretches of encroached forestland where it is impossible for the forest personnel to enter, forget evicting the illegal occupants,� Malakar said, adding that the Forest department had conducted eviction drives 70 times on prime elephant habitats in central Assam but without success.
�The fallouts are there for all to see in the form of the present-day escalating man-elephant conflict,� he said.
Urging the media to be balanced and to avoid bias in reporting, Malakar said that the media could play the biggest role in creating and mobilising mass opinion in support of conservation.
Writer and conservationist Ramanikanta Deka, in his speech as the guest of honour, expressed grave concern at the rapidly vanishing forest and wildlife in the State, and held the lack of vision and commitment on the part of the Government as singularly responsible for the appalling situation.
�Given the unabated and ruthless destruction of the State�s forests and wildlife, an environmental disaster is looming over us,� Deka said.
Mubina Akhtar, a freelance journalist who writes an environmental column in Asomiya Pratidin, in her acceptance speech, gave an account of her reporting on the dangers threatening the age-old practice of silk-worm rearing in the State besides other mounting environmental hazards.
Arup Shandilya, a staff reporter with Dainik Asam, emphasized on the importance of rural reporting in view of the grave developmental challenges before rural Assam. He said that issues concerning the village economy were largely ignored by the media.
Summing up the proceedings, DN Chakravartty urged the media to focus more on developmental issues and act as a catalyst for effecting positive changes. He said that a new breed of fearless and honest journalists was the need of the hour, as reporting what was happening was not enough and journalists were now under an obligation to show the path under the changing circumstances.
�Governments have failed the people of India as evident from the prevailing widespread poverty and underdevelopment. The media has to build strong mass opinion for forcing the Government into action,� Chakravartty said.
Chakravartty also exhorted the young journalists to be studious so that they could develop enough knowledge on diverse topics.
Earlier, PJ Baruah, executive editor of The Assam Tribune, in his welcome speech, gave a background of the award and thanked the family of RN Borooah, a former editor of The Assam Tribune, for its goodwill in encouraging young journalists.
Each of the awards carries a citation and Rs 25,000.