In Memory of Manoj Kumar Misra
TRAFFIC mourns the loss of the late Manoj Kumar Misra, who passed away on 4 June 2023. Mr Misra was the Director of TRAFFIC’s India office from 1996 until 2001.
A great water warrior and a conservationist to the core has gone silent. The passing of Manoj Misra has left a great void in the conservation community of India and across the globe. For over two decades, he fought relentlessly for the conservation of the river Yamuna in India. As a convenor for the unique ‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan’, a movement dedicated to the revival of the river, he brought together science, community engagement and legal recourse to bear on the conservation of the Yamuna – the freshwater lifeline of New Delhi – and its flood plains.
Manoj was the most sought-after expert on Yamuna in the country and took up the fight on its behalf to the National Green tribunal and various courts, on the premises of which he would often be seen with a bundle of court documents.
Manoj joined the prestigious Indian Forest Service (IFS) in 1979 and served in various capacities in the States of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh till 2001, when he decided to take voluntary retirement from the service to devote his time to protecting the Yamuna river.
During his long IFS tenure, he joined TRAFFIC on secondment from the government in 1996, when he was appointed as the Director of the India office, always known as TRAFFIC India. Manoj led TRAFFIC’s work on the sub-continent in a dynamic fashion. His quiet demeanour and infectious smile belied a fierce determination and focus, noticeable to all who passed through TRAFFIC’s portals over the next five years. Mr Misra’s years of experience in forestry and wildlife brought new innovations and networks to the non-government work of TRAFFIC. While helming TRAFFIC India, he focused on combating wildlife trafficking by bringing on board law enforcement professionals to guide investigations and on-ground collaboration with government authorities, leading to some major seizures and the establishment of law enforcement deterrents on illegal commodities like shahtoosh shawls, woven from the finest threads of Tibetan Antelope wool. His leadership enabled TRAFFIC to illuminate several other important trade dynamics, including those involving shark fisheries and medicinal and aromatic plants.
One forest officer, who was posted in Delhi as a Deputy Conservator of Forests and Wildlife, when Manoj was working for TRAFFIC India, fondly recalled how they cooperated in law enforcement action against display of Shahtoosh shawls and other banned wildlife products. Manoj got WWF India to award an appreciation certificate to the government forest officials of the wildlife team. Anyone who came into contact with Manoj was touched by his humble nature and dedication to the cause of conservation.
He was, of course, a forester and ‘wildlifer’ at heart, leveraging his government service training and discipline to heighten TRAFFIC’s professionalism, but at the same time, he was a great humanist. Mr Misra worked so well with people from various backgrounds and expertise across TRAFFIC’s global team, with governments, and with other organisations to derive impact and results, including at the regional level in South Asia.
After leaving TRAFFIC in 2001, Manoj established the Peace Institute, a charitable Trust in India, and under that umbrella, worked as a consultant to TRAFFIC in 2003-4 to conduct a needs assessment across South Asia focused on regional wildlife law enforcement cooperation. In 2007 he founded the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, literally meaning Long Live Yamuna, and moved his focus towards freshwater conservation.
It is not often one meets someone of his integrity, and all who met him during that five-year sojourn with TRAFFIC have never forgotten the rare privilege of having known Manoj-ji both professionally and as a friend.
TRAFFIC extends its sincere condolences to Manoj Misra’s family and friends through this memorial tribute.