Durban Activist Wins International Environmental Prize

desmondDurban’s tireless campaigner, Desmond D’Sa, is one of six grassroots environmental activists from around the world who has been chosen by the US based Goldman Environmental Foundation to be awarded the prestigious 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize. Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary year, the Goldman Prize is awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions. 

Two other South African environmental activists have previously won the Prize: Bobby Peek, who won in 1998, and Jonathan Deal, who won the Prize last year. D’Sa joins five other fearless leaders from around the world who are working against all odds to protect the environment and their communities. The 2014 recipients come from India, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Africa and USA.

“For the past 25 years, the Goldman Environmental Prize has honoured heroic grassroots environmentalists for their achievements around the world and this year is no exception,” said David Gordon, executive director, Goldman Environmental Prize. “From fracking to palm oil development, the 2014 Goldman Prize recipients are not only tackling some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems; they are also achieving impressive environmental victories and inspiring others to do the same.”

D’Sa has been awarded for rallying South Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down the Bulbul Drive landfill – a toxic waste dump that exposed nearby residents to dangerous chemicals and violated their constitutionally-protected right to a safe and clean environment.

“As activists we all work tirelessly, against extreme odds and in frustrating circumstances to achieve our goals, and we don’t expect accolades for this work.” said D’Sa, “So I am really honoured by the acknowledgement this award provides not only for me but for the people I work with and the communities who have benefitted from the closure of the Bulbul landfill site. As an international award it reminds us of the global fight we have against exploitation of the poor and the duty we have to the environment.

Paying tribute to South Durban residents D’Sa said: “The closing of the Bulbul Drive landfill is a remarkable triumph and a deserving victory for the hundreds of tenacious and brave residents who campaigned tirelessly for years to close down the landfill.”

“Almost 70 percent of Durban’s industry is in south Durban, home to more than 300 industrial-scale facilities such as crude oil refineries, paper mills, and agrochemical plants. It is also home to 300,000 residents, who were forcibly relocated here by the apartheid regime to create a cheap labour pool for the emerging industrial economy. They bear the brunt of industry’s toxic chemicals, leading to the basin’s infamous label of “cancer valley”—a reference to the area’s high rates of cancer, along with unusually prevalent cases of asthma and bronchitis,” explained D’Sa who in 1996, co-founded the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), where he started as an unpaid volunteer.

D’Sa joins this year’s winners: Ramesh Agrawal from India who organized villagers to shut down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh; Ruth Buendia Mestoquiari from Peru united the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have uprooted indigenous communities still recovering from Peru’s civil war; Suren Gazaryan from Russia led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast near the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics; Rudi Putra from Indonesia dismantled illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino. Finally Helen Holden Slottje from USA helped towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking.

Article Source: SA – The Good News

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