Top award for Durban campaigner

2014-04-29 00:00

DURBAN environmentalist and campaigner, Desmond D’Sa, yesterday was one of six activists from around the world who received the prestigious 2014 Goldman Environmental Award in San Francisco. The annual award was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman.

Two other South African environmental activists, Bobby Peek, and Jonathan Deal have previously won the award in 1998 and 2013 respectively.

D’Sa was awarded for his role in the shutting down of the Bulbul Drive landfill — a toxic waste site that exposed residents to dangerous chemicals and violated their constitutionally protected right to a safe and clean environment. In a statement yesterday, D’Sa said he was honoured by the award not only for him, but for the people he works with.

“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 down the landfill,” he said.

He said 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. “People in the area 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.”

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