The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a subsidiary of the RBS Group confers the RBS ‘Earth Heroes’ Awards for recognizing work in the field of wildlife and conservation. N Sunil Kumar, Head of Sustainability, India, RBS NV, and Director, RBS Foundation India, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that sustainable development should be an integral part of human progress.

OneWorld South AsiaTop Indian Forest Service officers have bagged RBS Awards. How do these awards motivate government personnel deliver better?

N Sunil Kumar: The secured bureaucratic system allows officers to have a choice of not taking on too many challenges. If one doesn’t do much, one avoids committing mistakes. But, there are some who go beyond their call of duty, like tackling organized mafia and taking a personal initiative in handling some difficult issues. Examples set by such government officials need to be recognized.

We request all such officers to widely disseminate the message within their states using departments as their channels to spread awareness.

OWSA: On what basis are the preliminary nominations made?

 Kumar: There is ample choice among nominations which include both the official and non-official ones. All entries are put to certain standards as per their respective categories. Special note is being taken of the work accomplished and challenged faced by the nominees.

The basic challenge lies in judging and awarding the nominees. There are a large number of people doing extraordinary work across the country but the challenge lies in choosing the appropriate person, as the difference between the achievements of the two alternate individuals is not much. Therefore, the person losing out is often left with the insecurity of not producing recognizable work.

The jury for the awards comprised of experienced researchers, agricultural experts and journalists. The person being considered for the award is selected through a stringent process involving a thorough background check.

OWSA: The RBS-2014 awards acknowledge lesser known species and not focused on the more popular ones like the tiger?

Kumar: The focus was not on the species per se, but on the work done by a particular applicant. Usually, the work done on lesser known species does not get due attention from the media and there is less visibility of the work done in these fields. Unfortunately, much more focus is given to people and organizations by the media working in the areas of tiger and rhino protection.

OWSA: The RBS-2014 awards also recognized grassroots organization from different states like Nagaland?

Kumar: Recognition of grassroots organization in Nagaland is an example of outstanding work where the people, the government, the political leadership, and the nonprofits have come together for the conservation of the Amur Flacon migratory bird.

OWSA: RBS is working on generating monetary wealth and conservation of natural wealth. Do you see a visible connect between the two activities?

Kumar: The money we generate is on the basis of the natural wealth endowed on us. Therefore, it is prudent to invest in our ecosystem which provides sustenance.

If we squander the natural wealth, there is no GDP growth. The message which needs to be conveyed to the society is the idea of sustainable development instead of promoting the conservation of individual species.

OWSA: Has RBS recognized any major environmental initiative in Madhya Pradesh, which incidentally became the first state to launch a knowledge portal on climate change?

Kumar: We received around four nominations from the state. The RBS Foundation is also working with the state’s forest department to restore the degraded area of around 10,800 square kilometers in a national park.

The state’s fundamental strength is with their eco-development committees and forest protection committees putting up strong governance in a way that help forest communities make their living based on natural resources.

Communities residing outside the protected areas also have rights and a forest protection committee is elected by the villagers among themselves with the law also allowing them to elect a forest guard. The entire village works in consensus to chart out the development issues concerning the village with the locals keeping a check on the proceedings.

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