Odisha activist wins Goldman Environment Prize
San Francisco: Indian environmental activist Prafulla Samantara was on Monday announced as the Asia recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for championing the cause of Odisha’s Dongria Kondh tribals and safeguarding their land and culture.
Samantara, the sixth Indian to win the prize, also called the ‘Green Nobel’, had led a historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha from a massive, open-pit aluminium ore mine to be set up by Vedanta Resources.
His case established a precedent authorising local village councils throughout the country to decide on mining activities in their regions, giving them control over their land, lives and destinies.
The previous five Indians prize-winners are Medha Patkar, M.C. Mehta, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla (jointly) and Ramesh Aggarwal.
The prize honours grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited regions — Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.
This year’s other winners are Uros Macerl from Slovenia, mark! Lopez from the US, Rodrigo Tot from Guatemala, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Wendy Bowman from Australia.
The prize recognises individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.
It views grassroots leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them.