GOLDMAN Award winner, Desmond D’Sa, returned home from the US last week.
The Durban environmental activist was awarded with the prestigious 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize at the San Francisco Opera House last month.
D’Sa joined five other fearless leaders from around the world who are working against all odds to protect the environment and their communities. The 2014 recipients, chosen by the US based Goldman Environmental Foundation, come from India, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Africa and USA.
Des was welcomed home by members of the community, who are proud of his achievements.
“The Goldman award is the biggest environmental award one can achieve and I am proud and excited that this was bestowed on me as a grassroots activist. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that I would receive of prestigious award of this caliber for doing the work I do. I am humble and deeply grateful to the groups and persons in South Africa and in the USA who nominated me,” said Des.
Born and raised in the outskirts of Durban, Des was 15 when the government forcibly uprooted him and his family to move and live alongside polluting industrial plants. He took on jobs at chemical factories where he witnessed the environmental harm the industries were wreaking on local communities.
His experiences left a searing impression, driving him to become an advocate for environmental justice. In 1996, he co-founded the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), where he started as an unpaid volunteer.
Des was awarded for rallying South Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down the Bulbul Drive landfill through the SDCEA, and has now turned his sights on fighting the expansion of Durban’s port.
“To the many people I encountered daily and who supported me in my work over 20 years I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I am optimistic that this award will inspire others to raise and voice their opinions and here I see unity of affected people to be the key as we strive for another world that brings about equality and one nation where we all treated like humans and other species and nature is put first. Without a balanced world the planet will continue to be in crisis because of greed and we will not be able to arrest the climate challenges we all face,” said Des.
He said this award would give the community the resolve to continue the fight to bring about these changes for the present and the future.