June 6, 2001 -- On May 16, the Dalai Lama honored Rakesh Jaiswal of Eco-Friends in Kanpur, India, as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion" in an award ceremony in San Jose, California. Yesterday, Dr. Raquel Gutierrez Najera of Guadalajara, Mexico, received the Ecological Merit Award from Mexico`s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources in Palenque, Chiapas.
Rakesh`s award was organized by San Francisco`s "Wisdom in Action," and given to 50 individuals "who, through their loving kindness and service to others, have made their communities and our world a better place."
Rakesh and his organization Eco-Friends have forced numerous industrial polluters, including crematoriums and tanneries, to clean up their operations and stop polluting the Ganges River. E-LAW U.S. has worked with Rakesh since 1998.
On Earth Day last year, Eco-Friends organized thousands of villagers in Kanpur to protest the contamination of the Ganges. The protesters symbolically blocked a drainpipe that carries tannery effluent and partially-treated sewage directly to the river.
Since the protest, the state government of Uttar Pradesh forced tanneries to recover toxic waste, ensure that power outages would not disrupt the pollution control operation, and install hundreds of deep water hand pumps to allow communities to obtain potable water below contaminated surface water.
Raquel received the Ecological Merit Award for defending Mexico`s forests, land and water, and for pioneering the use of environmental law in Mexico. She has fought hard to defend Lake Chapala, filing a petition with the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) citing the government`s failure to abide by Mexico`s environmental laws to protect the lake.
Lake Chapala is rapidly deteriorating as a growing number of industries, farms, feedlots and sewage treatment plants discharge their wastes - directly or indirectly - into the lake. The five million residents of Guadalajara depend on the lake for drinking water, but supplies are shrinking due to over-consumption and evaporation. Meanwhile, stands of water hyacinth are filling the lake`s shallow waters.
Raquel is founder of the Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA). She will be in Eugene this month for a Working Exchange Fellowship at E-LAW U.S.
Congratulations to Rakesh and Raquel!