Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Environmental Activists Win UNEP Sasakawa Prize

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Two projects bringing green stoves and clean lighting to remote communities in Latin America, East Africa and India are the laureates of the 2009-2010 UNEP Sasakawa Prize. The UN Sasakawa Prize Winners 2010 were officially announced at the “11th Special Session of the Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Forum and the Simultaneous Meetings of the Conferences of the parties Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions” on February 23 in Bali, Indonesia.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General, announced that this year’s winners are Nuru Design, a company bringing rechargeable lights to villages in Rwanda, Kenya and India; and Trees, Water and People (TWP), an organization that collaborates with local NGOs to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves to communities in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti. He said that the UNEP Sasakawa Prize, worth US$200,000, is given out each year to sustainable and replicable grassroots projects around the planet. The winners will receive their prestigious prize at an award ceremony in Bali attended by dozens of Environment Ministers during the 11th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council. He added that in a year that saw global leaders meet in Copenhagen for the crucial climate conference, the 2009 theme for the Prize is ‘Green Solutions to Combat Climate Change’. The winners, who were selected by a panel of four people including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and UN Messenger of Peace Wangari Maathai, will receive US$100,000 each in order to expand and develop their grassroots projects. “Combating climate change is not just up to governments: it starts at the grassroots level, as communities tap into the power of renewables and sustainable technologies. Through pioneering green ovens and sustainable lighting, Nuru Design and Trees, Water and People are changing the lives of thousands of schoolchildren, housewives and villagers across Latin America, Africa and India. This is the Green Economy of tomorrow, in action today,” said Achim Steiner who chaired the Jury Panel, quoted by a reporter of The Southeast Asia Weekly who attended the event on February 23 in Bali, Indonesia.

He added that the two UNEP Sasakawa Prize Winners 2010 included Mr. Sameer Hajee, Director of the Naru Design Company, and Mr. Stuart Conway, Executive Director of the Trees, Water & People (TWP) whose two projects are both helping to improve daily lives in far-flung, non-electrified villages while helping to fight climate change.

Sameer Hajee, Indian Nationality, Director of the Naru Design Company, said that it was the first time in his life to receive the UNEP Sasakawa Prize Winners 2010.

“I am very pleased and honored to receive the UNEP Sasakawa Prize Winners 2010. To promote the green economy and protect our environments, I think that I will continue my hard work and try my best to work for sustainable development as well as poverty reduction in the world,” he told The Southeast Asia Weekly during a personal interview after his receiving the prize.

Mr. Stuart Conway, Executive Director of the TWP, said that he was also honored to receive the UNEP Sasakawa Price 2010.

Stuart Conway stated that TWP is a non-profit organization, collaborates with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves that burn 50 to 70 per cent less wood and remove toxic smoke from homes.

He said that other his organization’s projects included community tree nurseries, reforestation, protecting watersheds and the promotion of renewable energy.

He pointed out that to date, TWP has coordinated the building of 35,000 stoves throughout Central America and Haiti, benefiting more than 175,000 people. The ecostoves burn 70 per cent less wood than traditional ovens, saving families US$1 to US$5 per day. They also decrease harmful carbon emissions by 1 ton of CO2 equivalent per year per stove for domestic users and 3.5 tons of CO2 equivalents per year for commercial users, like tortilla makers.

He added that to supplement the fuel-efficient stoves project, TWP has helped villages create 16 community-run tree nurseries that sequester carbon and counter the effects of deforestation. To date, three million trees have been planted throughout Latin America.

The UNEP Sasakawa Prize is sponsored by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation, an independent, non-profit grant-making organization that supports both Japanese and international philanthropic projects. The UNEP Sasakawa Prize was originally created in 1982 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa. ///

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