April 12, 2008 / 11:16 PM / in 11 years

Minnows move mountains to win Goldman eco prize

LONDON (Reuters) - Six campaigners who took on governments and multi-national corporations from Russia to Ecuador and won have been rewarded with this year’s Goldman Environmental Prizes.

Steam rises from chimneys of the pulp mill on the shore of Lake Baikal 180 km (112 miles) southeast from the regional centre Irkutsk in this February 3, 2008 file photo. Six campaigners who took on governments and multi-national corporations from Russia to Ecuador and won have been rewarded with this year's Goldman Environmental Prizes. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/Files

The prize, dubbed the Nobel Prize for the environment and worth $150,000 to each of the six winners, is awarded to the individual deemed to have made the greatest contribution to the local environment — often alone and against great odds.

Founded in 1990, a recent survey suggested that the work of the Goldman Prize recipients to date had benefited more than 100 million people worldwide. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in San Francisco on Monday.

This year’s Africa winner is Feliciano dos Santos, a musician with polio who has used his band Massukos and personal drive to get cleaner water and better sanitation in some of the poorest parts of his native Mozambique.

“Feliciano dos Santos is an inspirational leader who is changing Mozambique. His message and actions are positive and people of all ages look up to him and want to change themselves and the world they live in,” said Ned Breslin of Water for People, a non-governmental organization.

In Russia the prize goes to Marina Rikhvanova who is battling the Russian government in a bid to save Lake Baikal, one of the world’s oldest lakes, from potential destruction from waste from a planned uranium enrichment plant nearby.

This at a time when the world is increasingly turning its attention to the possible role of nuclear power in combating the climate crisis.

In Europe, Belgian campaigner Ignace Schops is rewarded for raising $90 million to create the country’s first National Park out of a densely-populated industrial wasteland.

His success has acted as a catalyst for others who want to copy his model to create green spaces elsewhere, the Goldman committee said.

Rosa Ramos of Puerto Rico is recognized for persuading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use funds raised from fining polluters to create the Las Cucharillas Marsh Nature Reserve, providing habitat for many aquatic birds.

In Mexico the prize goes to Jesus Leon Santos who heads a local land reclamation group battling rampant soil erosion in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca.

In Latin America, the prize is jointly awarded to Pablo Fajardo and Luis Yanza. They are battling oil giant Texaco — taken over by Chevron in 2001 — to clean up and pay damages for the millions of gallons crude oil and toxic wastewater dumped in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1970s and 80s.

Editing by Jon Boyle

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