Activists win environmental prizes

Other News Materials 15 April 2008 01:05 (UTC +04:00)

Their names read like a cast of Davids who have taken on Goliath. ( dpa )

Two Ecuadorians fighting oil giant Chevron over what they claim is the planet's worst oil pollution. A Mozambique rock star who sings about sanitation issues. Russia's "environmental mother" who is fighting to save the world's largest freshwater lake from oil and nuclear pollution.

These were three of the seven winners Monday of the 150,000-dollar Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the most coveted environmental prizes in the world.

"The prize is the recognition of a struggle of an entire people," said Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, 35, who won the prize with Luis Yanza, 46, for leading a class-action lawsuit representing 30,000 Ecuadorians against Chevron Corp over widespread oil contamination in the country's Amazon River region.

"That someone here does recognize us, in the land of California, in the land of Chevron, is very significant to us," he said.

If they prevail, it could cost the oil company up to 16 billion dollars in damages. Chevron says that it is not responsible for the pollution.

Other prize winners include Rosa Hilda Ramos, a 63-year-old grandmother from Puerto Rico who helped protect sensitive wetlands in Puerto Rico from development, and Ignace Schops, 43, who helped lead an effort to establish the first and only national park in his native Belgium.

Feliciano dos Santos, 43, from Mozambique is a musician-activist who uses live traditional performances to educate villagers how to prevent the spread of disease through sanitation and clean water systems, as well as rise above poverty through sustainable development.

Jesus Leon Santos, 42, of Oaxaca, Mexico, won the prize for helping promote the use of pre-Columbian agriculture techniques to transform arid land into productive farmlands.

Marina Rikhvanova, 46, often called Russia's "mother of the environmental movement," was recognized for her efforts to protect Siberia's Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake, from pollution from oil and nuclear industries.

During the past 19 years, the San Francisco-based Goldman Fund has awarded the prize to 126 people from 72 countries. Winners are nominated confidentially by a network of environmental organizations and individuals and selected by an international jury.