Hillary Legacy medal for mountaineer with a heart
Professor of Economics, conservationist and mountaineer Dr Harshwanti Bisht has been selected to receive the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal. According to Dr Beau Beza, programme director in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, “the award is presented for remarkable service in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions. The medal both recognises Sir Edmund Hillary's own service on behalf of mountain people and their environment and also encourages the continuing emulation of his example."
In 1981 Harshwanti Bisht, Rekha Sharma and Chandra Prabha Aitwal were the first three women to summit the main peak of Nanda Devi (7,816m). Bisht was also a member of the Indian expedition to Mt. Everest, in 1984. However, as Beza points out, the Hillary Medal is awarded for philanthropic achievements, not for sports achievements:
For 25 years, since 1989, Dr Bisht has worked to improve conditions in the Gangotri area of Uttarakhand, at the headwaters of the Ganga in northern India. Her Save Gangotri project has planted tens of thousands of saplings, organised eco-awareness campaigns, propagated endangered medicinal herbs, and introduced ecotourism standards to an area that had been ravaged by climate change and unregulated pilgrimage.
“When I was in Khumbu with the 1984 Indian Everest Expedition, I saw the great effect of Sir Edmund Hillary's work to conserve the natural environment and to bring economic opportunities to the Sherpa communities. So that inspired me to work in Gangotri, which is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites but faces many great challenges, both in protecting the environment and in serving the needs of the various stakeholders,” stated Bisht. The medal will be awarded to her on March 17 at The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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