Indian wins Goldman Environment Prize

Prafulla Samantra

Indian activist Prafulla Samantra has won the Goldman Environment Prize, one of the world most important environment awards. He won the award for his action in stopping a large company from taking over tribal land for mining in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa.

Samantra’s story

Samantra grew up in Orissa in a family of farmers. He trained as a lawyer when he grew up. In 2003, he read a news report about the plans of a mining company named Vedanta to take over land in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa and convert it into a mine. Mines are used to dig out rocks and minerals from deep within the ground. The Niyamgiri Hills are rich in bauxite deposits which are mined to make the metal aluminum. Aluminum is a shiny white metal that is used to make a variety of things-from plates and spoons to aircrafts.

The Dongria Kondh worship the Niyamgiri Hills as a living god
The Dongria Kondh worship the Niyamgiri Hills as a living god

Worried that the mine would destroy tribal and forest land important to the Dongria Kondh (the tribe that lives in the Niyamgiri Hills), Samantra worked hard to educate the local people to rise up in protest against the mine. He also filed a case in the Supreme Court. In 2013, the Supreme Court said that the local people of the Niyamgiri Hills alone could decide whether to go ahead with the mine or not. Thanks to the Samantra’s work, the village leaders of the area voted against the mine. Defeated, Vedanta cancelled the project in 2015. Samantra’s story shows how people can fight for their rights even when faced with a powerful company.

Samantra is the sixth Indian to win the Goldman prize. This year, six people from all over the world have been awarded the prize, one from each of the six continents where people live.

Who is an activist?

activistAn activist is someone who tries to bring about change in society through his direct actions. For example, some activists help poor children get into schools, others run shelters for the needy while yet others work to protect the environment.