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Three Climate Friendly Projects Short-Listed for UNEP Sasakawa Prize 2007

Tromso/Nairobi, 4 June 2007—The short-list for the prestigious UNEP Sasakawa Prize was announced today on the occasion of World Environment Day (WED) in Norway.

• They include an individual who has pioneered and catalysed urban forestry in South Africa as a way to food security and local action on climate change.

• A group that is boosting rural incomes by spreading environmental education and renewable energies via the use of flat-bottomed boats and solar power on Bangladeshi's river system.

• A woman who has brought climate-friendly rice production, rainwater harvesting and biogas power to tens of thousands of villagers in rural India.

The short-list will be discussed on 30 July by a distinguished panel of judges including Wangari Maathai, the 2005 Nobel Peace laureate; Angela Cropper, Senator for Trinidad and Tobago, Wakako Hironaka, the former Minister of the Environment of Japan, Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Yvo de Boer, Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "These extraordinary candidates have worked selflessly to transform challenges facing the rural and urban poor into opportunities for sustainable forms of development. In doing so they have also addressed the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change not via global international agreements but by practical action at the grass roots".

"One has focused on the link between forestry and improved standards of living in South African cities like Port Elizabeth and Kimberley while another has brought clean energy and environmental education to more than 400,000 in the remote Chalanbeel region of Bangladesh by harnessing river-based transport," he said.

"The third candidate has matched the development needs of the people of Kerala, in particular women, and simple but life-transforming technologies such as rainwater harvesting and biogas. I am sure the judges will have tough time finding an overall winner," added Mr Steiner who was in Tromso for WED.

Jeunesse Park

Jeunesse Park, Chief Executive Officer of Food and Trees for Africa, began working with local authorities and communities initially in Gauteng to develop parks, nurseries, street trees and other greening projects in the early 1990s.

The forestry projects, which began 12 years ago, not only improve the local environment but assist in food security for local people and removing carbon from the atmosphere.

"There's a huge rush of interest in sustainable development and related issues. Suddenly people are fascinated by what we do—from all levels of government to the private sector, international NGOs and the general public. Everyone is expressing the desire to plant a tree," said Ms Park.

More programmes have been added to reflect the public interest—Trees for Homes, Eduplant and the Urban Greening Foundation.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS)

Over nearly two decades, this Bangladeshi-based NGO has travelled from remote farm to remote farm bringing an estimated 87,000 villagers annually new sustainable management techniques to tackle soil erosion, ground and water contamination, over-fishing and habitat destruction.

Close to 90 flat-bottomed boats allow volunteers and experts to access some of the most remote communities in the country with the water transport utilizing solar power and mobile phones for Internet access in order to bring education, especially to women in a country where literacy rates are only just over 40 per cent.

SSS, whose chief executive is Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, also uses the Internet to check on farm prices so the communities can get the best prices at market. Overall, incomes in SSS visited villages have increased to such an extent that residents can now pay children's education expenses and gain access to good health care.

Omana T.K

When she as 26 years-old, Ms Omana sold of all her assets to found the Rural Agency for Social and Technological Advancement in 1989 in the Wayanad District of Kerala.

It marked a revolution in the role of women in the community and also triggered a successful rain-water harvesting movement in the region which has led to about 60,000 rain pits being established and 50 community-based water use and conservation-monitoring committees.

The rainwater ensures potable water in the summer and has taken pressure off ground water supplies.

Ms Omana has also contributed to community-based initiatives that contribute to curbing climate change including the use smokeless Chullah that has reduced firewood consumption by 50 per cent and the installation of close to 2,000 composting tanks producing 7,000 tons of organic manure annually.

Other projects include the development of rice production that practically eliminates methane emissions and the promotion of biogas systems as an alternative source of energy.

Notes to Editors

The award ceremony for the USD 200,000 UNEP Sasakawa Prize will take place at the Museum of Natural History on 1 November in New York. For more information please visit http://www.unep.org/sasakawa/

The UNEP Sasakawa Prize acts as an incentive for environmental efforts that are sustainable and replicable in the long-term. It recognizes innovation, groundbreaking research and ideas, and extraordinary grassroots initiatives from around the world. The UNEP Sasakawa Prize is sponsored by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation, an independent, non-profit grant-making organization that supports both domestic and international philanthropic projects. The UNEP Sasakawa Prize was originally established in 1982 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa. The Prize was re-launched in its current format in 2005, and is currently chaired by Mr. Sasakawa's son, Yohei Sasakawa.

The three candidates were short-listed by Daniel Schrag, Director of Harvard University's Center for the Environment; Richard Ottinger, Pace University Law School and Zamba Batjargal, former minister of the Environment for Mongolia and Eric Falt, Director, Division of Communications and Public Information, United Nations Environment Programme.

For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: 254 20 7623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

UNEP News Release




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