Odisha 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.
The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prize awarded annually to grassroots environmental activists, one from each of the world’s six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.
The prize includes a no-strings-attached award of US$175,000 per recipient. The prize is given by the Goldman Environmental Foundation headquartered in San Francisco, California. It is also called the Green Nobel.
An iconic leader of social justice movements in India, Prafulla Samantara led a historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminium ore mine.
The thick forest lands of Niyamgiri Hills are of vital importance to the Dongria Kondh, an 8,000-member indigenous tribe with deep ties to the surrounding environment. The Dongria are renowned fruit farmers with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the forest’s medicinal plants.
The other winners include Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo; Uros Macerl, Slovenia; Wendy Bowman, Australia; Mark Lopez, United States and Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala.