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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Al Gore wins Indian tribal award
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Al Gore
Mr Gore has ceaselessly warned of the dangers of climate change
Khasi tribes people in the Indian state of Meghalaya have decided to honour former US Vice President Al Gore for promoting awareness on climate change.

They say changes in the weather are devastating the picturesque hill state.

Traditional chiefs of the tribe will confer the Grassroot Democracy awards on Al Gore for his campaign for measures to stop global warming.

A spokeswoman for Mr Gore said he was "humbled" to hear of the award, but was unsure if he could attend the ceremony.

'Abode of the clouds'

The tribes people say that they also want to honour him for his award-winning 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which they say dramatically highlights changes to the environment because of global warming.

Al Gore

The award will be handed over at the second Dorbar Ri (People's Parliament) on 6 October near a sacred forest at the village of Mawphlang, which has been preserved untouched for more than 700 years.

The award will consist of traditional gifts including local handicrafts and a "small amount of money".

"We hope Mr Gore would be able to bring global attention to what we are facing in our part of the world," Meghalaya parliament member Robert Kharshing said.

"This whole thing called climate change is affecting us the most."

Meghalaya - literally "Abode of the Clouds" - is home to the towns of Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, which vie for the title of wettest place on earth.

But rampant deforestation and global warming mean these areas are getting less rain, while the soil is not able to hold water that does arrive, environmentalists say.

Amelia Sohtun, husband and their 17 children
Khasis say they are under threat (Photo: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee)

They say that this is not only affecting the livelihoods of hill farmers who depend on sub-soil water, but has even resulted in shortages of drinking water, particularly during winter months.

"Meghalaya will lose the very meaning of its name because of drastic climate change caused by global warming," said Peter Lyngdoh, a local environmentalist.

The tribes people say that they are also at risk from a greater influx of migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, where global warming has increased the demand for living space because large coastal regions have become submerged.

"Such huge influxes will reduce us to foreigners in our own land," says local politician Paul Lyngdoh.

Such fears have prompted the authorities to launch what critics say are absurd measures to reward tribal mothers with cash if they give birth to more than 15 children.

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