Worldwide competition names Oxfam partner "Environmental Hero"

By rbaker

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Dr. Yu Xiaogang, director of Oxfam partner Green Watershed, has won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the largest award of its kind in the world.

Six grassroots environmentalists from Kentucky, Liberia, China, Brazil, Ukraine, and Papua New Guinea were each presented with a $125,000 prize at an awards ceremony in San Francisco.

"All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal risk, to protect the environment in their home countries," said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. "Their incredible achievements are an inspiration to all of us."

Dr. Yu was recognized for the groundbreaking watershed management programs he developed after studying the social and environmental effects of a dam built on China's Lashi Lake region. The dam destroyed the local fish stock and eroded the lakeshore where many farmers grew their crops.

According to a statement from the Goldman Prize, "His reports are considered a primary reason that the central government paid additional restitution to villagers displaced by existing dams and now considers social impact assessments for major dam developments."

Since the Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990, only 113 individuals from 67 countries have been recognized. Prize winners are selected by an international jury of peers, environmental organizations and individuals.

This is the third environmental prize Dr. Yu has won in the past year. Green Watershed won first prize in the environmental protection category of a Ford Motor Company conservation and environmental grants competition. The organization was also one of 10 winners in a contest sponsored by Beijing's Economic Observer and Shell, which recognized groups that designed outstanding sustainable development projects in China.

Warwick Browne, a program officer leading Oxfam's watershed management work in Asia, said Dr. Yu is a member of a brave group of leaders in the Chinese civil society movement.

"People like Dr. Yu are attracting national and international attention for encouraging local communities to participate in the development decisions that shape their daily lives," Browne said.