Indian activist Ramesh Agrawal wins top environment award


Ramesh-AgrawalRamesh Agarwal who helped villagers fight a large coal mine is among six environmental activists from around the world who have won the Goldman Environmental Prize.

” As the owner of a small internet café in Raigarh, Agrawal was attuned to the power of information and what the internet could do to bring the information to a broader audience. With this understanding in mind, he founded Jan Chetana, a grassroots movement to protect people and the environment from rampant industrialization,” the Goldman Environmental Foundation said in a press release .

“Acting as a watchdog for rural communities who do not have access to computers, Agrawal combed through the Department of Environment’s website to check for new applications for development projects in Chhattisgarh. He informed local villagers about environmental violations and filed Right to Information (RTI) applications on their behalf. Among these projects was a major coal mine proposed by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL). Burning more than 4 million tons of coal a year, the mine would be among the biggest of its kind in Chhattisgarh. Starting in 2008, Agrawal organized residents to voice their opposition and filed numerous petitions highlighting JSPL’s failure to hold mandatory public meetings and obtain environmental clearance for the project.

In April 2012, the National Green Tribunal revoked the permits required for the mine to break ground, citing the various violations reported in Agrawal’s petitions.

Agrawal’s work made him a target for industry supporters. Shortly after the coal mine was defeated, gunmen allegedly hired by JSPL broke into Agrawal’s shop and shot him in the leg, shattering his bones. Agrawal survived the attack, but faces a long road to recovery. His attackers have yet to be brought to justice. Despite his limited mobility, Agrawal is helping villagers to assert their rights as landowners and apply for mineral rights to the coal buried under their properties,” adds the release.

About the Goldman Environmental Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize supports individuals struggling to win environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world. The Goldman Environmental Prize was created in 1989 by civic leaders and philanthropists Richard N. Goldman and his wife, Rhoda H. Goldman. The Goldman Environmental Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.

Prize winners participate in a 10-day tour of San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and presentation, news conferences, media briefings, and meetings with political, public policy and environmental leaders. The winners of the prestigious prize will each receive $175,000.

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