Washington, April 25: The one who saves nature saves humankind. Today only a few feel the worth of our environment and the world celebrates such souls. One of them is Prafulla Samantara, who belongs to Odisha, revolted against the expansion of Vedanata mining site to save Odisha’s Niyamgiri Hills by using law. The award winners were honored on Monday at a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House and will also be awarded at the second event in Washington, DC on Wednesday.Prafulla Samantara, is a social and environmental activist who won the prestigious ‘Goldmine Environmental Prize’ for this year from Asia. Prafulla Samantara becomes the sixth Indian to win this award after Medha Patkar, MC Mehta, Rasheeda Bi, Champaran Shukla and Ramesh Agrawal.
The role of Prafulla Samantara as an activist:The 65-year-old grew up in a family of farmers, trained as a lawyer and took to fighting for Odisha’s tribals after getting to know about Vedanta project in 2003. He filed a petition against the project before a Supreme Court panel on mining, thereby becoming the first citizen to use the law to halt Vedanta in its tracks. The SC, in a historic decision issued on April 18, 2013, had empowered local communities to have the final say in mining projects on their land and had given village councils from Niyamgiri Hills the right to vote on the Vedanta mine. By August 2013, all 12 tribal village councils had unanimously voted against the project. In August 2015, after years of partial operation and stoppages, Vedanta had announced the closure of an aluminium refinery it had built in anticipation of the mine’s opening.
The efforts of Prafulla Samantara paid and thus saving nature- became the winner of ‘Goldmine Environmental Prize’. Respect to such souls as ‘saving nature’ is today’s highly needed urge and the need for survival of humankind. Stepping on the ideals of such souls would definitely save our planet Earth. Other winners include Mark Lopez, United States; Uroš Macerl, Slovenia; Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala; Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo; and Wendy Bowman, Australia.
Contributions of the winners in a gist:Mark Lopez, United States: He is being honored for persuading the state to spend $176 million to clean up contamination linked to a shuddered battery plant in East Los Angeles.
Uroš Macerl, Slovenia: Uroš Macerl, an organic farmer from Slovenia, successfully stopped a cement furnace from co-incinerating pet-coke with hazardous industrial waste by rallying legal support from fellow activists and leveraging his status as the only citizen allowed to challenge the plant’s permits.
Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala: An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community.Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo: Putting his life on the line, Rodrigue Katembo went undercover to document and release information about bribery and corruption in the quest to drill for oil in Virunga National Park, resulting in public outrage that forced the company to withdraw from the project.
Wendy Bowman, Australia: In the midst of an onslaught of coal development in Australia, octogenarian Wendy Bowman stopped a powerful multinational mining company from taking her family farm and protected her community in Hunter Valley from further pollution and environmental destruction.