The Kabul Zoo was once a showpiece in Asia with spacious cages set along a tranquil river bank. It is in ruins now, a sad monument to the fighting in Afghanistan.
When this was written only a few animals were left, among them a blind lion and a lame black bear maimed by shelling. They are looked after by Aga Akbar, a lanky zookeeper who lived 18 terrible months on the front lines rather than abandon his charges. Strolling along a rocket-blasted path, Akbar passes a stretch of rubble and notes that those were enclosures for the animals he loved.
He recalls the long months in 1993/1994 when the zoo was smack in the middle of the front line. Outside the gates of the zoo, soldiers hunkered in a maze of trenches. Tanks parked at the entrance fired at their enemies across the street. Through the worst of the fighting, Akbar stayed. He spent hours huddled beneath a slab of stone waiting for the rocketing to stop. He never left because he loved these animals.
The front line is now on the southern outskirts of Kabul, and the relative peace has been a chance for him to clean-up the zoo. Hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordinance have been hauled away, a mountain of shrapnel swept up, and a half dozen anti-personnel mines removed.
Still living on the grounds, Akbar devotes his time to the survivors - two lions, four bears, two wolves, two wild boars, several monkeys and some rare birds. They are his family. What Akbar lacks in expertise, he makes up in compassion.
"The past has not just been miserable for the zoo's animals. Akbar, a former zoo keeper, was brutally killed by an unknown assailant two years ago."
"He was a very kind old man and he dedicated his whole life to this place. He continued his work during the worst fighting in Kabul," said the current zoo keeper.
"Now he is seen as a champion in Afghanistan."
By BBC News Online's Marcus George in Afghanistan - Thursday, 6 December, 2001
Mike Anane, an environmental journalist, has helped to raise environmental awareness in Ghana. As editor and environment writer of the Triumph newspaper (1991-1995), his gutsy articles brought to the fore the alarming rate of environmental destruction in the country. His campaigns calling for the closure of an asbestos products factory shook the country's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Environment from their slumber. His articles, particularly those dealing with toxic waste, earned him many enemies who threatened his life. Undaunted, he went on to challenge the Parliament and EPA to investigate the matter. Their inquiry concurred with Anane's position and they recommended that the culprits be punished. His writings caught the attention of the British High Commission and he was awarded the British Chevening Scholarship for further studies. Upon his return, he wrote a book Covering the Environment - A Guide to Environmental Journalism in Developing Countries whose aim is to encourage journalists and editors to report on the environment and to make these stories interesting to the public. He also established an International Centre for Environmental Journalism based in Accra, which seeks to motivate the media to take a more serious interest in the environment. As founder of the League of Environmental Journalists in Ghana, he organized workshops to equip journalists to report on the environment since neither of the two media training institutions offer courses in environmental reporting.
Dr. Stephen O. Andersen
Stephen Andersen's accomplishments in ozone protection encompass problem solving, public education and community involvement.
He conceptualized and implemented the UNEP Technology and Economic Assessment Panel, which he continues to co-chair and which has become a model for independent, international and technical assessment. He put together teams of experts from governments and industry to work with developing countries on ozone protection, laying the groundwork for technology-sharing and multilateral financing. He catalyzed the involvement of national military programmes, defense contractors and space agencies to develop and implement solutions to ozone protection, including new approaches to revising military procurement. He has brokered agreements between industry and environmental groups to facilitate technically and economically successful replacements of ozone depleting chemicals in diverse industries including food packaging, oil production and automobile air conditioning. He developed an award programme to promote individual, governmental and corporate efforts to protect the ozone layer.
His work has broadened to encompass climate change, and he has already brought about an agreement between the United States and the Japanese Governments and industry to promote alternatives to perfluorocompounds in semi-conductor manufacture.
He is the recipient of awards from the Sao Paolo State. UNEP, the Mobile Air Conditioning Society and the International Cooperative for Ozone Layer Protection.
Dr. Melih Boydak
Dr. Melih Boydak, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry, Istanbul University, has devoted the last 30 years of his life to the protection of the environment. He has explored numerous forests in Turkey and discovered various unidentified species of flora. He identified the rare Phoenix "sp" forest which was in danger of disappearing due to development. He reported the matter to the District's Governor, and as a result the development was stopped. Through the Arboretum Project, which he coordinates, he succeeded in protecting the luqidambar orientalis and other species of flora. He has brought together 26 non-governmental organizations in Istanbul whose collective aim is to protect forests, nature and the country's culture. He was co-chair of the XI International Forestry Congress, and he is also the founder of the International Foresters Association. He led the legal struggle to prevent the improper use of forest areas. He succeeded, in collaboration with other foresters, in applying an inexpensive afforestation method where trees are planted in calcareous areas. After the initial success in the pilot 1,000 hectares, the same process was replicated in a similar land area of 10,000 hectares, and today this land is once again covered with cedar trees. He has undertaken research to develop ways of creating forests and combatting desertification in the arid parts of the Central Anatolian Region.
Valery Demianenko, a lecturer in ecology at Cherkassy Engineering and Technology Institute, has been a leader in the environmental movement in Cherkassy and throughout the Ukraine for more than 25 years. Thanks to his efforts, the regional non-governmental organization (NGO) Ecology and Education was established in 1994. He has helped publish more than 8,000 textbooks and teachers bulletins and developed a number of pedagogical methodologies for children of all ages. In collaboration with NGOs, he ha put into practice a number of ideas, which have contributed to environmental awareness and to a more environmentally-conscious society. His NGO's goals include distributing environmental information throughout the region, establishing broad environmental regulations and setting up environmental courses in various institutions. His NGO has succeeded in introducing an in-depth environmental programme in high schools, in transforming seven high schools into "ecological schools", and in organizing two international conferences on ecology and education.
She has led more than 50 expeditions, and has authored some 70 publications. In 1969, she participated in the Tektite project where scientists lived for weeks in an enclosed habitat on the ocean floor 50 feet below the surface. By this time, she had spent more than 1,000 research hours under water, more than any other scientist who participated in the programme.
In 1970, she led the all-female Tektite II expedition. With the aim of making the public aware of the damage being done to the aquasphere, she became an outspoken advocate of undersea research, and began to write for National Geographic and to produce books and films. In 1979, Earle walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any human before or since. She travelled 1,250 feet below the ocean's surface off the island of Oahu, and then detached herself from the vessel to explore the ocean floor.
In 1982, she started Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies which design and build undersea vehicles, which make it possible for scientists to maneuver at depths that defy existing technology. She is the recipient of many international awards and has been the subject of many articles and TV programmes.
Yasuo Goto, chairman of the Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company and a business leader always includes the environment in his company's policies. Since 1994, more than 3,000 people have participated in environmental awareness courses, organized by Yasuda in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Yasuda has reduced the use of natural resources by implementing a practical management system. In November 1997, its computer center was the first financial institution to be certified in conformity with ISO1401, and today it is providing other organizations with the know-how to get certification. In 1992, he led the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (KEIDANREN) delegation to the Earth Summit - where he represented some 1,000 companies. Soon after, the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF) was established and Goto appointed Chairman, KNCF has supported 71 conservation projects implemented by NGOs in 23 countries. In 1993 and 1996, he attended the IUCN Congress where KNCF activities were lauded as an excellent example of partnership between business and NGOs. KNCF hosts seminars, lectured by leading environmentalists from around the world, to educate Japanese leaders on nature conservation. At the Kyoto Conference in December 1997, KNCF and the World Bank co-sponsored a symposium. Goto is Chairman of the Common Agenda Round Table of Japan, which held a workshop in May 1997 on environmental awareness and education where recommendations were formulated and presented to the cabinets of the United States and Japan.
Greening Australia is a national, community-based organization working with Australians to establish, rehabilitate and manage Australia's vegetation. Since 1982, it has developed and implemented vegetation programmes for four national governments. Activities include the National Tree Programme and the One Billion Trees Programme through which more than 800 million trees have been planted, sown through direct seedling or protected so they could regenerate. In 1996/1997, Green Australia protected or regenerated 8,194 hectares of remnant vegetation and planted 5,000 hectares of trees and shrubs. Greening Australia encourages Australians to change the way they think about vegetation, and this has been achieved through grassroots activities. For example, during a 12-month period in 1996 and 1997, Greening Australia's 200 strong staff worked with 3,000 landcare and community groups and more than 500 local government organizations; conducted 300 public presentations, delivered more than 8,000 hours of training to landowners, schools, councils and community groups; organized activities attended by more than 28,000 people; and handled 22,000 requests for information. Green Australia stimulates community and business support which adds value to government funding by a factor of at least four, through funding, materials, equipment, skills, time, labour and land use.
Dr. Jae-Bum Kim
Prof. Jae-Bum Kim is one of the most active leaders of the environmental movement in the Republic of Korea. His activities began when he used his scuba diving skills to clean rivers and streams and by convincing fellow divers to become part of the environmental movement. In 1991, he set up and became Executive Director of "The Clear Water Revival" organization, which initiated an underwater clean-up campaign. As a professor of journalism at Hanyang University, he also realizes the importance of educating young people about the environment. In 1994, he formed the Green Family Movement through which green activities are undertaken by schools, from kindergarten to universities. Today more than 40,000 students in 316 schools are active members of this movement. As Secretary-General of this organization, he initiated cooperation with a number of international environmental organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). He made it possible for young people to participate in UNEP activities such as World Environment Day (WED), the Global Youth Forum and the International Children's Conference. He formed the UNEP National Committee for Korea, which contributed greatly to the success of WED '97 and the Global Youth Forum. He is active in promoting environmental awareness through both print and electronic media, and he has convinced Korea's Educational Broadcasting System to air environmental programmes every week.
Yuri Luzhkov, Mayor of the City of Moscow, is a leader committed to sustainable urban development and whose campaign promises have already begun to materialize.
He has removed environmentally unsafe industries from the capital, and established an environmental procurator's office as well as a special police department for environmental protection for the Moscow region.
He has contributed to the stabilization of air pollution from cars by improving fuel quality, equipment of municipal transport by installing catalytic converters, and the flow of traffic by altering the City's routes.
He has placed a full ban on the use of leaded fuel and has set new standards on the construction of ring highways, which must meet certain environmental requirements. He also established a new policy whereby the use of coal in thermal power stations and by large industries has been replaced by natural gas. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced significantly.
He has enforced the law requiring the renewal of purifying systems in industrial plants and has changed the way in which galvanic processes are undertaken and centralized the use of galvanic waste, thus reducing the level of heavy metals in the Moscow River.
He introduced environmental education in the City's secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.