D’Sa receives global enviro award


SOUTH Durban environmental stalwart, Desmond D’Sa is one of six worldwide recipients of the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Every year, the US-based Goldman Environmental Foundation selects one environmental activist from each of the six inhabited continents to be the recipient of the award.

D’Sa, who is the co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) was selected as Africa’s winner for his work, uniting South Durbanites to close the Bulbul Drive landfill, which was a toxic waste dump, which exposed residents to dangerous chemicals in contravention of their constitutional right to a safe and clean environment.

Desmond D’Sa with his 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize. PHOTO: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Desmond D’Sa with his 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize. PHOTO: The Goldman Environmental Prize

In its 25-year history, only two other South Africans have won, including last year’s recipient, Jonathan Deal and 1998’s winner, local activist Bobby Peek who still works closely with D’Sa.

“The Goldman Environmental Prize has honoured heroic grassroots environmentalists for their achievements around the world and this year is no exception. From fracking to palm oil development, the 2014 Goldman Prize recipients are not only tackling some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems; they are also achieving impressive environmental victories and inspiring others to do the same,” said executive director of the Goldman Environmental Prize, David Gordon.

Desmond and his work in South Durban. VIDEO: The Goldman Environmental Prize

“Desmond carries an enormous amount of respect in the South Durban community. He has a natural ability to inspire and energise residents, uniting them as one in the fight to protect the environment,” said Gordon.


Click here for this year’s other recipients.


“As activists we all work tirelessly, against extreme odds and in frustrating circumstances to achieve our goals and we don’t expect accolades for this work. So I am honoured by the acknowledgement this award provides, not only for me, but for the people I work with and the communities who have benefitted from the closure of the Bulbul landfill site. As an international award, it reminds us of the global fight we have against exploitation of the poor and the duty we have to the environment,” said D’Sa.

“The closing of the Bulbul Drive landfill is a remarkable triumph and a deserving victory for the hundreds of tenacious and brave residents who campaigned tirelessly for years to close it down. Almost 70% of Durban’s industry is in South Durban, home to more than 300 industrial-scale facilities, such as crude oil refineries, paper mills and agrochemical plants. It is also home to 300,000 residents, who were forcibly relocated here by the apartheid regime to create a cheap labour pool for the emerging industrial economy. They bear the brunt of industry’s toxic chemicals, leading to the basin’s infamous label of ‘cancer valley’ – a reference to the area’s high rates of cancer – along with unusually prevalent cases of asthma and bronchitis.”


Click here for the history of the Bulbul Drive landfill site.


His fellow SDCEA colleagues were overjoyed at the news of his award. “We are proud of Desmond and are extremely happy. We are humbled and overjoyed that the work we do has received international recognition. We hope this will also influence others about the importance of our environment and that everything we do today will have a great impact in the future,” said SDCEA projects officer, Noluthando Mbeje.

Desmond D'Sa. PHOTO: The Goldman Environmental Prize

Desmond D’Sa and his family.
PHOTO: The Goldman Environmental Prize

D’Sa and his fellow award-winners were presented with their awards at a ceremony on Monday, 28 April at the San Francisco Opera House. A ceremony is set to follow at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Centre in Washington on Wednesday, 30 April.

Erin Hanekom

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