Rizwana wins a Goldman!
We are thrilled to learn that Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh will receive a Goldman Prize for her work challenging abuses of Bangladesh’s exploitative and environmentally-devastating ship breaking industry. Rizwana is an environmental attorney who led a successful legal battle against rogue ship breaking operations. She has collaborated with ELAW for more than a decade.
ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Cherniak has traveled to Dhaka to work with Rizwana and her colleagues at the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, and Rizwana has made several trips to Eugene. ELAW is a “nominating” organization and nominated Rizwana for this year’s prize.
Finding a free minute in her busy day, she spoke to me from San Francisco yesterday:
“Mark sent us the U.S. guidelines on ship breaking. The judge used a page from those guidelines when he made his ruling. ELAW provided us with the scientific information we needed and helped us understand international law and its implications. It put the whole issue into a global perspective. Lessons from our victory have been shared through the ELAW network with lawyers in other countries where wastes are being dumped. This is a great help.”
After Monday’s award ceremony, Rizwana will travel to Washington, D.C. to meet members of Congress and the press. “Will you meet President Obama?” I asked.
“I bought a new sari for the occasion, but we’re not sure.”
I asked Mark: What makes Rizwana a rock star?
He said: “In 1997 Rizwana was a young lawyer with little experience, when BELA’s founder died. Rizwana filled the leadership vacuum and not only kept the organization going but turned it into South Asia’s most powerful public interest environmental law organization. She is an inspiration for ELAW partners around the world who are working to protect communities and the natural environment.”
Mark and ELAW scientist Meche Lu have worked closely with Rizwana and her colleagues on issues ranging from pollution in tannery ponds, to the health risks of toxic chemical spills, to evaluating an environmental impact assessment for gas field exploration.
Rizwana is one of nine ELAW partners who have won the prestigious Goldman Prize: Pablo Fajardo (2008, Ecuador); Anne Kajir (2006, Papua New Guinea); Olya Melen (2006, Ukraine); Vera Mischenko (2000, Russia); Samuel Nguiffo (1999, Cameroon); M.C. Mehta (1996, India); Albena Simeonova (1996, Bulgaria); and Harrison Ngau Laing (Malaysia, 1990).