UN environment agency announces 2003 awards

27 May 2003

A Briton who championed the cause of the great apes and the rhino before dying in an air crash, an Indian whose eco-friendly toilet is transforming the health and lives of the urban poor, and a Lebanese journalist who has almost single-handedly brought crucial environmental issues to the attention of the Arab world are among this year's winners of the prestigious United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Award.

They are joined by an individual from Niger whose company is delivering "sustainable development in action" by using gum arabic to boost farmers' incomes while rehabilitating West African dry lands, and a litter-busting brigade of Nepalese women who have transformed waste management in the Himalayan mountain kingdom.

A team of Bangladeshi lawyers who are bringing environmental and social justice to their country; a Frenchman who, over half a century ago, recognized and pressed for the need for national parks; and a children's group, which helped cut water wastage among communities in the Algerian Sahara, complete the list of this year's winners.

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer is scheduled to present the awards during World Environment Day (WED) celebrations on 5 June in Beirut.

The laureates include Serge M. Antoine of France, who played a major role in the creation of the Ministry of Environment; the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), considered a pioneer in public interest environmental litigation; and Annelisa Kilbourn of the United Kingdom, who worked 16-hour days seven days a week to save the great apes, the elephant and the rhino before dying in a plane crash in Gabon last November while working on research into the Ebola virus and western lowland gorillas.

Among the other winners are Bindeshwar Pathak of India, who developed the technology of a twin-pit, pour-flush toilet known as Sulabh Shauchalaya, of which 1 million have been constructed in a country where 700 million people and 120 million households have no toilets; Najib Saab of Lebanon, who launched Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment and Development) magazine, which has triggered an unprecedented environmental public awareness campaign in the Middle East; Boureima Wankoye of Niger, President of Achats Service International (ASI), which introduced the mass plantation of gum arabic in the dry lands of Niger for export to Europe, helping to rehabilitate degraded land and providing a profitable, income-generating activity for its inhabitants; and the Women Environment Preservation Committee (WEPCO) of Nepal, which collects and manages garbage from more than 3,000 households from Lalitpur, proving that using the three "Rs" principle (reduce, reuse and recycle) at community level can control waste pollution problems in an urban municipality.


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