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Mayor of Moscow, among 23 individuals and organizations to receive UN environment award at World Environment Day celebrations in Moscow

Nairobi, 25 May 1998 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that 23 individuals and organizations from 19 countries have been elected to the prestigious ranks of its Global 500 Roll of Honour, for their outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.

Each of these success stories will be officially recognized on 5 June 1998 at a special award ceremony in Moscow. The event, hosted by UNEP, the City of Moscow and the Russian Federation, is part of this year's World Environment Day celebrations.

Among the laureates who will receive their award from UNEP's Executive Director, Mr. Klaus Toepfer, are: Aga Akbar, a zookeeper from Afghanistan who lived 18 terrible months on the front lines rather than abandon his charges; Mike Anane, a journalist from Ghana whose gutsy articles brought to the fore the alarming rate of environmental destruction in his country; Sylvia Earle of the United States of America for her lifelong commitment to deep sea exploration; Yasuo Goto a business leader from Japan for making the environment an integral part of his company's policies; Greening Australia for rehabilitating the country's vegetation; Jae-Bum Kim of the Republic of Korea for his unwavering commitment to educating young people about the environment; Feodor Konyukhov, an environmental globetrotter from the Russian Federation, who only uses environment-friendly modes of transport to promote the sustainable use of the Earth's resources; Yuri Luzhkov, Mayor of the City of Moscow, for his commitment to sustainable urban development; Yongshun Ma, a retired lumberman from the People's Republic of China, who has devoted the last part of his life to planting trees; and Don Merton of New Zealand for devising methods to improve the survival of bird species facing extinction.

The list of winners also includes six Global 500 Youth Environment Award laureates who, despite their young age, have understood the sanctity of life on Earth. Among these youth winners are Ecole Propre/Ecole Verte, an environmental education programme which, in five short years, has taken root in 92 schools throughout Guinea with more than 20,000 students participating; and Akima Paul of Grenada for raising environmental awareness on her Caribbean Island.

"These environmental defenders have demonstrated that it is at the community and local level where action to protect the environment acquires its full meaning. In honouring them, UNEP hopes that their examples will inspire and guide many other men, women and young people to join the global coalition dedicated to protecting the environment", said Mr. Toepfer.

Some 664 individuals and organizations, in both adult and youth categories, have been honoured since UNEP launched the Global 500 award in 1987. Among prominent past winners are: the late French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau; Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental and human rights activist from Nigeria who was executed for leading the resistance of the Ogoni People against the pollution of their delta homeland; the World Wide Fund for Nature; Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States of America; Jane Goodall of the United Kingdom whose research on wild chimpanzees and olive baboons provided insight into the lives of non-human primates; and the late Chico Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper who was murdered during his fight to save the Amazon forest.

UNEP looks to the world community to identify and nominate environmental advocates, so that they too can be recognized for their efforts. Nominations can be obtained from UNEP's Headquarters, Global 500 Roll of Honour, Information and Public Affairs Branch, P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya, as well as from UNEP's regional offices.




Aga Akbar Afghanistan
Mike Anane Ghana
Stephen O. Andersen United States of America
Melih Boydak Turkey
Valery Demianenko Ukraine
Sylvia Earle United States of America
Yasuo Goto Japan
Greening Australia Australia
Jae-Bum Kim Republic of Korea
Feodor Konyukhov Russian Federation
Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov Russian Federation
Yongshun Ma People's Republic of China
Anne Mearns Republic of South Africa
Don Merton New Zealand
Zygfryd Nowak Poland
Oeuvre de Bienfaisance
pour Haiti
Yiannakis D. Potamitis Cyprus



P. B. K. L. Agyirey-Kwakye Ghana
Ecole Propre/Ecole Verte Guinea
Hellenic Marine Environment
Protection Association (HELMEPA)
Leave It To Us Junior Board United Kingdom
Akima Paul Grenada
Red Scarf Environmental
Protection Action Group
People's Republic of China


Aga Akbar

Aga Akbar is a lanky zookeeper who, during the fighting in Afghanistan, lived 18 terrible months on the front lines rather than abandon his charges. Through the worst of the fighting, Akbar stayed. He spent hours huddled beneath a slab of stone waiting for the rocketing to stop. He never left because he loved these animals. The front line is now on the southern outskirts of Kabul, and the relative peace has been a chance for him to clean-up the zoo. Hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordinance have been hauled away, a mountain of shrapnel swept up and a half dozen anti-personnel mines removed. Still living on the grounds, Akbar devotes his time to the animals who survived. They are his family. What Akbar lacks in expertise he makes up in compassion.


Mike Anane

Mike Anane, an environmental journalist, has greatly contributed to raising environmental awareness in Ghana. His campaigns calling for the closure of an asbestos products factory shook the country's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Environment from their slumber. His articles dealing with toxic waste earned him many enemies who threatened his life. Undaunted, he went on to challenge the Parliament and the EPA to investigate the matter. Their inquiry concurred with Anane's findings and they recommended that the culprits be punished. Anane established in Accra an International Centre for Environmental Journalism, which seeks to motivate the media to take a more serious interest in the environment. As founder of the League of Environmental Journalists in Ghana, he organizes workshops to equip journalists to report on the environment, since neither of the country's two media-training institutions offer courses in environmental reporting.


Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle's PhD dissertation created a sensation in the oceanographic community in 1966. Never before had a marine scientist made such a detailed first-hand study of aquatic life. Since then, she has made a lifelong project of cataloguing every species of plant that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. She has led more than 50 expeditions. In 1969, Earle participated in the Tektite project where scientists lived for weeks in an enclosed habitat on the ocean floor, and in 1970, she led the all-female Tektite II expedition. In 1979, she walked untethered on the ocean floor at a lower depth than any human before or since. With the aim of making the public aware of the damage being done to the aquasphere, Earle has become an outspoken advocate of undersea research, and has written for National Geographic and produced numerous books and films.


Yasuo Goto

Yasuo Goto, Chairman of the Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company, is a business leader who always includes the environment in his company's policies. Since 1993, more than 3,000 people have participated in environmental awareness courses, organized by Yasuda in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Yasuda has reduced the use of natural resources by implementing an environmental management system. In November 1997, its computer centre became the first financial institution in Japan to be certified in conformity with ISO14001. Today, it is providing other organizations with the know-how to obtain certification. In 1992, he led the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) delegation to the Earth Summit in Brazil, where he represented some 1,000 companies. Soon after, the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF) was established and Goto appointed its Chairman. KNCF has supported 71 conservation projects, implemented by NGOs, in 23 countries. KNCF also hosts seminars to educate Japanese business leaders on nature conservation. KNCF has been lauded as a shining example of partnership between business and NGOs.


Greening Australia

Greening Australia is a national, community-based organization working with Australians to rehabilitate and manage Australia's vegetation. Activities include the National Tree and the One Billion Trees Programmes through which more than 800 million trees have been planted. In 1996 and 1997, Greening Australia protected or regenerated 8,194 hectares of vegetation and planted 5,000 hectares of trees and shrubs. During the same period, its staff worked with 3,000 landcare and community groups and more than 500 local organizations; conducted 300 public presentations; and delivered more than 8,000 hours of training to landowners, schools, councils and community groups. Since 1982, Greening Australia has developed and implemented vegetation programmes for four national governments.


Jae-Bum Kim

Jae-Bum Kim is one of the most active leaders of the environmental movement in the Republic of Korea. His activities began when he used his scuba diving skills to clean rivers and streams and by convincing fellow divers to become part of the environmental movement. In 1991, he set up and became Executive Director of the `Clear Water Revival' organization which initiated an underwater clean-up campaign. As a professor of journalism, he also realizes the importance of educating young people about the environment. In 1994, he formed the Green Family Movement through which green activities are undertaken by schools, from kindergarten to universities. More than 40,000 students in 316 schools are active members of this movement.


Feodor Konyukhov

Feodor Konyukhov is an environmental globetrotter who only uses environmentally-friendly modes of transport, such as sailboats, bicycles, skis, sleds and balloons. His aim is to promote the sustainable use of the Earth's natural resources and the ethics of living in harmony with nature. Konyukhov will soon be sailing solo around the globe in a campaign to clean-up the oceans from plastic garbage. He is one of the few people to have reached both the North and South Poles, crossed the Arctic Ocean, climbed mount Everest, sailed twice around the world, and cycled across Asia and Europe. All of this in an effort to raise environmental awareness and to bring attention to environmental issues.


Yuri Luzhkov

Yuri Luzhkov is a leader committed to sustainable urban development and whose campaign promises have already begun to materialize. He has removed environmentally-unsafe industries from the capital and established an environmental procurator's office as well as a special police department for environmental protection for the Moscow region. He has contributed to the stabilization of air pollution from cars by improving fuel quality, equipment of municipal transport by installing catalytic converters, and the flow of traffic by altering the City's routes. Luzhkov has placed a full ban on the use of leaded fuel and has set new standards on the construction of ring highways which must meet certain environmental requirements. He also established a new policy whereby the use of coal in thermal power plants and by large industries has been replaced by natural gas. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced significantly. He has enforced the law requiring the renewal of purifying systems in industrial plants and has changed the way in which galvanic processes are undertaken, and centralized the use of galvanic waste, thus reducing the level of heavy metals in the Moscow River.


Yongshun Ma

Yongshun Ma was a lumberman in China. When he retired in 1982, people encouraged him to relax during his last days. His response was always "I cannot until I have paid off a debt". He felt that had he not overlogged, if he had paid more attention to protecting the environment, there would not have been so much environmental degradation. He decided to devote the last part of his life to the protection of the environment by planting 36,500 trees to make up for those he had cut down. Every season, people would see him planting trees. In 1991, when he reached the age of 78, he counted that there were around 1,000 trees left to pay off his debt. He convinced his family, 16 people spanning three generations, to plant trees on holidays. At the end of that spring, at last his debt was paid off. By 1996, he had planted 40,000 trees. Motivated by his actions, more and more people in the region are planting trees and the forest is growing at an ever increasing rate. He has taught others how to breed and plant successfully, and under his guidance, his students' tree planting efforts have a success rate of 95 per cent. Today, at 84, you can still see Yongshun Ma, spade in hand, stirring the black soil, planting trees.


Don Merton

Don Merton, an officer with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, roams the forests of the world devising plans to improve the survival of bird species facing extinction. He has helped rescue more than a dozen birds, including the Mauritian echo parakeet, the Chatham Islands black robin and the New Zealand saddleback. In the Seychelles, he devised techniques to save the magpie-robin. Slow breeders that fed on the ground, the birds had been decimated by feral cats. By November 1992, despite a successful programme to eradicate predators, their numbers dwindled to 25. Conservationists turned to Merton, and after observing the robins, he discovered that the native vegetation in the birds' habitat had virtually disappeared and the forest did not provide enough safe nesting places. He suggested adjustments to supplementary feeding, to the positioning of nesting boxes and how to exclude other species from food and nesting sites. Over the years, the species made a remarkable recovery and today there are some 60 robins in existence. In Australia, zoologists are using techniques modelled on Merton's to rescue the helmeted honey eater.


Ecole Propre/Ecole Verte

Ecole Propre/Ecole Verte is an environmental education programme, which was created in 1992, as a pilot project, in four primary schools in Conakry, Guinea. Today, the project has taken root in 92 schools with 20,000 students participating. The objectives are to encourage schools to play an active role in promoting hygiene and environmental protection; to get students to spread the environmental message in their schools, families, neighbourhoods and villages; and to encourage parents and the community to take action. Through their ecological clubs, the students ensure that the classrooms, latrines and yard are clean and that flowerbeds are well managed. They control the sale of food around the school and educate the community using plays, films, debates, radio and TV programmes and competitions. They publish a bulletin whose content is produced entirely by the students and which is distributed nationally and internationally. Under the banner Ecole Quartier, the project has expanded to include other districts and villages.


Akima Paul

Fifteen-year-old Akima Paul, concerned with the state of the environment, began to speak out on the issues. She began by using newsletters sent out by Friends of the Earth as a way of passing on the environmental message. She wrote articles about the lack of care for the beaches of her Caribbean Island, the excessive use of plastic and the cutting down of trees. She then became a member of Friends of the Earth and enthusiastically participated in all their activities. She wrote articles for almost every issue of their newsletter on the myriad of environmental problems affecting her part of the world. Her strong point is that she speaks and writes with great conviction about issues which are close to the hearts of the Caribbean people, young and old alike. To further heighten the people's awareness, she shares her views on radio, in inter-secondary school debates, and through the art form of calypso and poetry.

Note to Journalists:

UNEP looks to the world community to identify and nominate environmental advocates, so that they too can be recognized for their efforts. Nominations can be obtained from UNEP's Headquarters, Global 500 Roll of Honour, Information and Public Affairs Branch, P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya, as well as from UNEP's regional offices.

For further information, please contact

Ms. Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox
Special Events
Tel: (254-2) 62 3401
Fax: (254-2) 62 3927

Mr. Tore J. Brevik
Information and Public Affairs
Tel: (254-2) 62 3292
Fax: (254-2) 62 3692


UNEP News Release 1998/49

Wednesday 27 May 1998
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