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Last Updated: Monday, 19 April, 2004, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Ghana's water champion wins award
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Rudolf Amenga-Etego addresses a crowd
A Ghanaian lawyer and human rights campaigner has won recognition for his work to stop water being privatised.

Rudolf Amenga-Etego, who is campaigning against a privatisation scheme being backed by the World Bank, has won a 2004 Goldman environmental prize.

The prizes, worth $125,000 each, have been described as "the Nobel prize for the environment", and honour activists.

This year there are winners from North and Latin America, Africa, Europe, island nations, and two from Asia.

The overwhelming majority of Ghanaians are poor. Water privatisation is predicated on handing over our assets to a multi-national corporation for profit
Rudolf Amenga-Etego
Rudolf Amenga-Etego founded Ghana's National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water, an attempt to halt a $400m project which would have meant water being sold at full market rates.

In a country where about 70% of the people have no access to clean water, he says, it would be disastrous for the poor.

Some Ghanaians already spend up to 20% of their income on drinking water, Mr Amenga-Etego says, and poor urban families sometimes have to choose between water and education.

Last year, the government of Ghana agreed to suspend the project, but it is now working on a new plan along similar lines.

Mr Amenga-Etego told BBC News Online: "The overwhelming majority of Ghanaians are poor. Water privatisation is predicated on handing over our assets to a multi-national corporation for profit.

"So it will automatically price water out of the reach of the poor. It's important to keep water in the public domain with accountable officials, not shareholders.

Popular support

"I think we have the support of something like 50-70% of all Ghanaians. With poor people spending so much of their income on water, those who'd be tempted not to give their daughters an education have that much more of an excuse."

A World Bank official told BBC News Online: "We are very supportive of the Goldman Prize winners because they demonstrate exceptional courage and commitment, often working at great risk to protect the environment and, ultimately, life on Earth.

"The Bank is not ideological with regards to the provision of water services. The main concern of the World Bank is that affordable water services of good quality reach the poor in developing countries.

"The scheme chosen will depend on the cultural, political, economic and social reality of the country in question."

The other winners of the prizes, being presented in San Francisco, US, on 19 April, include an American woman who has successfully campaigned for a chemical company to relocate her family and neighbours from their homes close to its plant.

Two Indian women are honoured for their work to hold Dow Chemical accountable for the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, which killed 20,000 people and injured 150,000 more.

A Colombian woman who has secured land rights for her country's black rural communities and a Georgian woman campaigning against the building of the world's largest oil pipeline are also winners this year.

The island nations' winner is a man from East Timor who works for the inclusion of environmental justice principles in his country's constitution.

Bhopal campaigners win key prize
19 Apr 04  |  South Asia
Award for US coalmine activist
14 Apr 03  |  Science/Nature

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