AJWS-funded project in Ethiopia wins prize

Greening project was one of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize.

April 18, 2012 01:54
2 minute read.

IKAL ANGELEI 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Goldman Environmental Prize)


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An American Jewish World Service-funded greening project in Ethiopia was one of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, announced on Monday evening.

Philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman established the San Francisco-based prize in 1989 with a goal of recognizing grassroots environmental heroes who strive to protect the planet, according to the prize’s website. One winning candidate is selected every year from each of six world regions, and the winners all receive awards of $150,000, the largest prize that grassroots environmentalists receive anywhere, the project says.

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The awards are aimed to coincide approximately with Earth Day – April 22 this year – and recipients participate in a 10-day tour of San Francisco and Washington, DC.

For the past two years, Ikal Angelei has been working to combat the ongoing construction of a large dam called Gibe III in southern Ethiopia. Her organization, Friends of Lake Turkana, aims to keep the lake area environmentally sound. Lake Turkana begins in southwestern Ethiopia and stretches south into neighboring Kenya.

Upon completion, the Gibe III dam is slated to span 610 meters in the Turkana Basin and would generate 6,500 gigawatt-hours of power per year, according to Friends of Lake Turkana. Despite the electricity production benefits, however, the dam would also cause the retreat of the lake, an increase in lake salinity, harm to aquatic life, destruction of indigenous economies and potential transboundary issues among Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya, the organization reported.

“Ikal Angelei has achieved what many thought was absolutely impossible,” said AJWS President Ruth Messinger, in a statement released by her office, upon Angelei’s win. “She brought together Lake Turkana’s deeply divided and marginalized indigenous communities to speak with a unified voice to thwart this project that would block their access to water and destroy their livelihoods.

“And because of her genius, major banks, including the World Bank, have withdrawn their considerations for financing the Gibe III dam. AJWS is overjoyed that the Goldman Environmental Prize selected her for this pivotal award and is hopeful that it will aid her work in halting this socially and environmentally untenable project.”


This year, in addition to Angelei, winners include Ma Jun from China – representing Asia – for his work cleaning up the environmental practices of Chinese corporations, Evgenia Chirikova from Russia – representing Europe – for mobilizing an effort to reroute a proposed highway that would cut through Moscow’s Khimki Forest, Edwin Gariguez from the Philippines – representing the “Islands” – for his movement against a nickel mine in the biologically diverse Mindoro Island, Caroline Cannon from the United States – representing North America – for her battles against offshore drilling in Arctic waters and Sofia Gatica from Argentina –representing South America – who has been fighting against the spraying of toxic agrochemicals after her baby died as a result of pesticide poisoning.

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