likely to emerge as the most coveted international prize for outstanding
contribution to environmental conservation is named after President H.H. Sheikh
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The Zayed International Prize for the Environment
was instituted by General, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown
Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister in May last year. This is an apt
tribute to a ruler whose vision has been guided by his love for nature and
wildlife, and the concept of sustainable development; long before these issues
came up for discussion in global forums such as at the 1992 UN Earth Summit (Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil) or, even earlier, the 1972 UN conference (Stockholm,
THE ZAYED INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR THE
... will be awarded every two years in
acknowledgement of outstanding achievements in environmental protection
and sustainable development. The 12 main fields identified include:
fragile ecosystems; freshwater resources; biological diversity; marine
ecosystems; sustainable rural development; sustainable industrial
development; environmentally sound technologies; human health; community
education; capacity building; women in environment and development; and
environmental security. Those distinguished by their achievements in these
fields are eligible for the prize; whether they are individuals, groups,
institutions, or organisations - governmental or non-governmental.
The maiden prize, comprising one million US dollars, a gold medal and a
certificate of appreciation, will be presented in the name of HH Sheikh
Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan by the patron, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al
Makhtoum at a public ceremony in Dubai in February 2001.
A web site on the Zayed Prize is being developed and is expected to be
on line in August 1999 (Zayedprize.org.ae).
The one million-US $ prize (world's largest environmental award),
demonstrates the appreciation of a nation for its leader whose unfailing
conservation efforts have drawn accolades from the international community.
Recognition has come from, to mention a few, the World Wide Fund for Nature
(Golden Panda Award), the Gulf Co-operation Council, Association of Arabian
Cities, Pakistan, Egypt and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The Zayed Prize has been in the news intermittently for over a year now,
including the competition for its logo design. What is not commonly known,
however, is that it is the flagship of a far more ambitious project. The Zayed
International Prize for the Environment will be an institution - a full-fledged
non-profit organisation. Scientific research and studies on environment will be
conducted; regional and international conferences will be held; a local
environmental forum will be organised every two months to debate locally
relevant issues; newsletters and journals will be produced. Besides, the Zayed
Prize (as the organisation itself is referred to) will actively participate in
various local, regional and international environmental events.
"The real aim is establishment of a centre of excellence for environmental
protection and sustainable development. The prize is only a part of this, ''
explains Dr. Moh'd Ahmed bin Fahad, chairman of the higher committee, which has
been constituted to administer the Zayed Prize. Among the committee's 12 members
are heads of federal and Dubai agencies including the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), Federal Environmental Agency (FEA), UAE University's Faculty
of Science, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Dubai Radio and TV,
and Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL).
Technical advisor, Dr. Eisa Mohamed Abdellatif elaborates on the purpose of
the Zayed Prize. ''It is an endeavour to honour and appreciate Sheikh Zayed who,
way back in the 1940s, was concerned about sustainable development. Of course he
didn't call it that. But even as early as in 1946, His Highness was worrying
about the water resources of Al Ain and developed the water management plan for
the area. He banned hunting in Abu Dhabi more than 15 years ago, and also
established the Sir Bani Yas nature reserve for Arabian wildlife. He committed
the necessary financial resources for conservation and has always been aware of
the importance of striking a balance between development and environment.''
Already the Zayed Prize has plans for an
environmental forum on ''best practice in industrial development'' in September
'99, an international conference on ''Desertification 2000'' in February 2000,
and a regional conference on ''Impact Assessment'' in 2001. Events like these,
facilities such as the research centre, library, auditorium, and other
requirements of a 'centre of excellence' surely call for spacious premises.
These are being developed. Dr. Fahad does not reveal where, but he does convey
that they will be lavish. For instance, the theatre will have a seating capacity
for 800; and the grounds will be beautifully landscaped. Naturally!
The first Zayed International Prize for the Environment will be conferred on
the winner/s in February 2001, during the period of National Environment Day
celebrations. By then environment is likely to take centre stage in Dubai.
a few environment-friendly people, products and events
India ''I've never seen these hills so green! Is this is
how they're supposed to look?'' commented a visitor to this Himalayan
valley town. He is an occasional visitor and had always seen the hills
scarred and degraded. But they were picturesque at night, when the
lights of Mussourie (a popular hill resort) twinkled; and also during
the monsoon when, in the pelting rain, everything seemed to burst into
bloom - even barren slopes. But in one sense the rains were bad news.
They brought down the hill slopes; and that's
where the action to 're-green' has
its roots. Through the '60s and '70s the hills had been mined
relentlessly for limestone. Every mining rule, every health and safety
regulation, every environmental norm, was broken with impunity - all
for making a fast buck. The hills were laid bare, slopes gashed white
with quarries (would you believe this? A quarry operator is known to
have painted the white gashes of his mine with green paint when former
Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was undertaking an air inspection of
the area), the air polluted, water resources depleted and weather
adversely impacted. Tourism declined. Landslides became routine
occurrences. Villagers on the hill slopes lived in terror. When the
rains brought the mining waste, loose soil and boulders down on
cottages, grazing grounds, fields, livestock, and even humans, it was
the last straw. Citizens were galvanized into action…. and the rest is
history. A public interest litigation in which a powerful mining lobby
was pitted against desperate but determined citizens, and which
dragged on for years; a landmark judgement in favour of citizens and
the environment; the cessation of mining; and the start of
re-greening. Responsible for re-greening is the 'ecological task
force,' comprising ex-servicemen belonging to the Territorial Army,
who are trained to undertake work even in the most difficult terrain.
The eco-taskforce has been on the job since the '80s, and still is.
It's taken a decade and a half, but the hills are green again; and
getting greener every year.
Dubai, UAE For the two months in a year that
Sudha Shrikhande visits her family in Dubai, nothing from their
kitchen is wasted. The plants in their garden are fed kitchen refuse -
all vegetable peels, naturally, but also eggshells, bones and fat.
Small pieces of paper, nails, hair are some other garden additives. ''
Don't put in tins, bottles, foils and plastic,'' cautions Shrikhande
'' and, if you are short of space and want to reduce bulk, just churn
all the organic stuff in a blender and use it. Ideal for flowerpots in
apartments!'' She has a compost pit of course, but frequently just
digs up the soil with her little red spade and buries peels around the
plants. Lemongrass, drumstick, mint,
a variety of flowers, all are
flourishing under Shrikhande's therapy for, I have seen her doctoring
her plants. ''This plant seemed to be drying up, so I have been giving
it tomato skins and a few orange peels. I put lemon skin in the money
plants. When it's good for us why shouldn't it be good for them?
Orange peels do good to hibiscus.'' Finally, an important tip: wash
your vegetables, pulses, meats and other foods in a large vessel, and
use the water for your plants or your lawn. Don't pour it down the
New Delhi, India I find environmental
expositions irresistible. Simply because I can keep track of
technological innovations that provide solutions for a multitude of
environmental ills. Not all of them are grandiose, complex and
expensive. I have often come across simple and clever solutions to
serious problems that make me think I can use that or Now why didn't I
think of this? Or this is definitely worth spending on or I must
remember this when I build my own house. So, when I was in Delhi I
came across an international exhibition called ''Environment India'99,
Build India'99, Water India'99'' (13-16 April'99) organised by
Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council and Exhibition
India Pvt. Ltd. Here are glimpses.
Coir fibre erosion control. Fibre
obtained from coconut husks is spun into coir yarn and then woven into
geotextiles - a huge net that is spread on slopes to hold soil in
place and prevent erosion.
Coir geotextile netting provides
support on slopes for about five years, which is sufficient time for
natural vegetation to grow and take over the job of soil protection,
while the coir netting bio-degrades, leaving only humus.
Fly ash bricks. Fly ash is a byproduct of
thermal power plants. Flyash pollutes the air and water, and its
disposal gobbles up large tracts of land. Now it's being used for
making smart looking bricks for construction.
Red mud tiles, bricks, roofing sheets, door binders.
Red mud is solid waste that is generated during extraction
of non-ferrous metals such as aluminium. This muddy residue, made up
of alumina, iron oxide and titanium oxide, is usually disposed off in
ponds, from where it runs off to pollute surface water sources and
percolates into groundwater. It is now being recycled into tiles,
bricks, corrugated roofing sheets, and as a binder for doors and
panels and stuff. Red mud has been mixed with natural fibres such as
jute to make a new material called red mud jute fibre polymer
composite that replaces wood in wood-based panel products. It can also
be used for furniture, flooring, paneling, electrical switch boxes
Eco-wud planters, fences, wall panels,
outdoor furniture, road signs. These products are made out
of plastic waste that is converted to 'eco-wud,'(remember 'Eco Wood'
of Eco plastic Industries, Dubai? See Earthsense, October 1998,)
an alternative to conventional wood and concrete. Eco-wud
products are made out of such waste as multi-layer film packaging and
PET bottles mixed with jute fibre waste. Other examples of plastic
waste utilisation: Conversion of tetra pack (cartons of milk, juices
and vegetable oils) into chipboard; and recycled PVC (polyvinyl
chloride) into a paste that can be mixed into paints.
I peeped into the conference hall where the talk was about plastics
that have invaded the packaging industry. Plastic waste has become
such a gargantuan problem that the Government of India had set up a
National Plastics Waste Management Task Force that submitted its
recommendations in August 1997. Following this, the Ministry of
Environment and Forests
drew up an action plan restricting
the use of plastic carrier bags; banning use of recycled plastic bags
for unpacked food items; participation of industry for collection and
transportation of used bags for recycling; phasing out plastic carrier
bags, cups and plates in services offered by the railways, ports,
government canteens and hotels; research on biodegradable plastics;
setting up of an Indian Centre for Plastics in
Environment....Certainly laudable, if they are implemented. I sat
through because plastic waste and its recycling are such an issue here
in the Emirates as well.
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WHAT ON EARTH CAN WE DO?
When buying something ask ourselves do we really need this
particular item? If we honestly do, then try and buy things that are
reusable, recyclable, or compostable. And be sure to reuse, recycle and