World Environment Day 2020

Online Panel Discussion: Biodiversity Conservation in South and West Asia

Friday, 5 June 2020, 10:30–12:00 (IST) / 15:00–16:30 (AEST)

Via Zoom

To celebrate World Environment Day, Australia Awards – South and West Asia is organising an online panel discussion on ‘Biodiversity Conservation in South and West Asia’ with alumni from the region.

These alumni and other key speakers will discuss common environmental issues faced in the region, concerted actions taking place or needed, the role of women in biodiversity conservation, and best practices from policy to implementation.

Time Segment/topic Presenter(s)
Sri Lanka Standard Time / India Standard Time
10:30am – 10:40am Opening Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Australia Awards – South and West Asia
10:40am – 11:45am Panel discussion and open forum Moderator:

Dr Randika Jayasinghe
Senior Lecturer –
Faculty of Technology University of Sri Jayewardenepura
Australia Awards alumna,
Sri Lanka

Biodiversity conservation success stories

Ms Mariyam Rifga
Assistant Director
Maldives Environmental Protection Agency
Australia Awards alumna,

Dr Yadav Prasad Kandel
Independent consultant
Australia Awards alumnus,

Common issues and concerted action

Dr Khalid Hossain
Programme Coordinator
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Australia Awards alumnus,

Youth and women leaders in conservation

Ms Thinley Choden
Deputy Chief Forestry Officer
Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research
Australia Awards alumna,

Ms Alifa Bintha Haque
National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
PhD candidate, University of Oxford

11:45am – 11:50am Launch of digital campaign Samar Hasan and Saira Ahmad

Co-founders of Sohni Dharti Climateers
Australia Awards alumnae,

11:50am – 12noon Closing and announcements Australia Awards – South and West Asia


Guest speaker

As a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow, Alifa focuses on the critically endangered largetooth sawfish. She is also a zoology lecturer in the Department of Zoology at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. She has a Master of Science in biodiversity conservation and management from the University of Oxford and is currently a PhD candidate in the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology. She is studying the sustainability of elasmobranch fisheries in Bangladesh, where she has been working in shark and ray conservation for more than two years. During this time, she has worked diligently to gain the trust of local fishermen and traders. Her project aims to provide rigorous information on critical sawfish habitats and trade chains, as well as improve the reporting of incidental sawfish catches by developing a cell phone reporting system.

Alifa wants to use her Fellowship to take on bigger goals for conservation in Bangladesh. She ultimately hopes to contribute towards a better conservation scenario for elasmobranchs in the Bay of Bengal region.

Alumni speakers

In order of appearance:

Dr Jayasinghe holds a PhD from the University of Western Australia on developing alternative solutions for sustainable waste management in Sri Lanka.

She coordinated a DFAT-funded project, ‘Australian – Sri Lankan university partnerships to develop community-based recycling businesses’, which was a collaborative project between the University of Western Australia, the not-for-profit organisation Waste for Life and three Sri Lankan universities (the University of Moratuwa, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and the University of Jaffna).

Randika’s research focuses on sustainable waste management, waste upcycling, materials development and the circular economy, as well as education for sustainability and creating awareness of sustainable management of the environment.

Mariyam received an Australia Awards Scholarship to study a Master of Science in Protected Area Management at James Cook University. Currently she serves as the Assistant Director of the Environment Research and Conservation Unit attached to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Maldives.

She has worked in conservation and protected area management field for more than 12 years and continues to actively contribute to the field as her responsibility to EPA. She started her career in Environment field in March 2004 and is among leading team members in formulation and implementation of management regimes for Protected Areas in the country.

Dr Kandel is a forestry professional specialising in Forest Carbon and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries). He holds a Master of Environmental Management from Victoria University of Technology and a PhD in Forestry from the University of Melbourne. He has more than 25 years of experience in the field of forestry.

He worked as a Forest Officer for the Government of Nepal for more than 15 years and as a Forest Carbon Specialist at WWF Nepal for more than 3 years. Since 2017, he has been working as an independent consultant. He has also worked on the development of Nepal’s Emission Reduction Program and the Forest Investment Plan. His research interests include Environmental Law, Environmental and Social Safeguards, Environmental Governance, and Climate Change Justice

Dr Hossain has more than 16 years of diverse professional experience in different roles in government, non-government organisations and academia. In his current role as Programme Coordinator at IUCN, he is responsible for managing biodiversity conservation, natural resources management and climate action in Bangladesh.

With the support of an Australian Leadership Award, he completed a PhD in Management at RMIT University, with a research focus on climate change adaptation for multinational corporations. He also received an Australian Development Scholarship and completed a Master of Diplomacy and Trade at Monash University. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Thinley Choden has been working as a forester since 2009. She has worked as Bhutan’s national focal officer for international organisations such as IUCN, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna And Flora), CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), MAB (Man and the Biosphere), UNESCO World Heritage Centre and TRAFFIC (Trade Record Analysis of Flora and Fauna In Commerce), as well as regional institutions such as SAWEN (South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network) and ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development).

Her research work covers topics including non-wood forest products, human–wildlife conflict, agroforestry and Protected Area governance and management. She is currently working as Deputy Chief Forestry Officer for the Non-Wood Forest Products and Agroforestry Technology Sub-Centre at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research under the Department of Forests and Park Services, Chukha, Bhutan.

She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Murdoch University, Western Australia

Samar Hasan and Saira Ahmad were selected to participate in an Australia Awards Short Course on Business Incubation Management at the University of Queensland in 2017. A year later,  through the Australia Awards – South and West Asia Regional Alumni Workshop 2018 (which had the theme ‘Australia Awards alumni as champions for the environment and climate action’), they successfully applied together for an Australia Awards alumni grant.

With the grant, they co-founded Sohni Dharti (meaning ‘Beautiful Homeland’) Climateers, which was initially crafted as a digital awareness campaign for climate change. The idea has since evolved, however, and has now become a citizens’ movement, involving people from all walks of life, to promote awareness about climate change and instigate climate actions to prepare the nation against the impending crisis.

Learn more about Samar and Saira’s story.