Monarchs, indigenous groups, agricultural projects receive UN ecology prizes

20 April 2005

The United Nations has awarded its latest batch of environmental prizes to monarchs, religious leaders and youth groups and honoured projects ranging from a green-friendly way of growing rice to the conversion of animal waste into energy.

The United Nations has awarded its latest batch of environmental prizes to monarchs, religious leaders and youth groups and honoured projects ranging from a green-friendly way of growing rice to the conversion of animal waste into energy.

Two monarchs, government and religious leaders and indigenous and youth group representatives received the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Champions of the Earth award at a ceremony last night at UN Headquarters in New York.

“UNEP is honoured to recognize the achievements of those who have, to a large extent, set the environmental agenda and laid the foundations for the many areas of progress we are able to see and celebrate today,” Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the people of Bhutan, representing the Asia-Pacific region, were named in recognition of their commitment to placing the environment at the centre of the Himalayan country’s constitution and all its development plans, with more than 74 per cent of its land under forest cover, 26 per cent of this cover designated as protected areas.

The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and representing West Asia, was honoured for his lifetime work to protect his country’s environment, and for his widely acclaimed contributions to agriculture, afforestation and species protection.

President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa received their award for their commitment to cultural and environmental diversity and their world leadership in conservation practices and spearheading the groundbreaking sponsorship of the Peace Parks concept to support cross-border conservation of critically important wild habitats.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the over 300 million Orthodox Christians and known as the Green Patriarch, was honoured for mobilizing moral and spiritual forces, not only in Europe but globally, towards achieving harmony between humankind and nature.

Former Environment Minister Julia Carabias Lillo of Mexico, representing the Latin American and Caribbean region, was named for her efforts in coordinating research and rural development programmes in extremely impoverished peasant communities.

For North America, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, was recognized for speaking out on behalf of the 155,000 Inuit of the Arctic on indigenous issues ranging from the devastating effect of climate change and its relentless assault on the Inuit’s traditional way of life to global efforts to eliminate persistent organic pollutants, a particular threat to Arctic peoples and ecosystems.

Finally, a special award was given to Zhou Qiang and the All-China Youth Federation for their role in the China Mother River Protection Operation, which mobilized 300 million Chinese youth to protect the environment. The Federation has undertaken almost 900 afforestation projects covering nearly 200,000 hectares.

Meanwhile five laureates were honoured today with a new biennial sustainable development award, the Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development (Seed) Initiative, a partnership between UNEP, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the IUCN – the World Conservation Union, a union of members from 140 countries including 114 government agencies, and 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

They include:

  • The System of Rice Intensification, or SRI, an a la carte menu of actions including when to plant out seedlings, weeding regimes and spacing of plants, which can be adapted to local conditions and indigenous rice varieties. Promoted by Cornell University, NGOs and local communities, it results in stronger plants that need less chemical fertilizers and pesticides and rice that commands higher prices.
  • A programme by the HimalAsia Foundation with local Tibetan cooperatives and a family of traditional medical practitioners to develop seabuckthorn, a deciduous shrub common in the Himalayas, which can decrease monsoon-related loss of topsoil by 30 per cent as well as providing highly nutritious berries traditional medicines.
  • An experimental community-led scheme in Madagascar that balances the needs of local fishermen and protection of the area's important coral reefs, including eco-tourism.
  • The Agua Para Todos initiative in Bolivia which is building water distribution systems in coordination with the municipal water company in Cochabamba, each connecting between 100 and 500 poor households, with costs met by the communities concerned through a micro-credit scheme, repayable within a year.
  • A project in Ibadan, Nigeria, that turns effluents and waste products from abattoirs into energy to generate income for poor urban communities and reduce the gases linked with climate change.


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