Green help for the poor cited in top Asia prize

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The Independent Online

An Indian engineer, a Philippine charity group and an Indonesian social worker are among the winners of Asia's Magsaysay award this year for giving green technologies to the poor, organisers said Wednesday.

Award foundation president Carmencita Abella said the trio had helped harness the technologies to empower their countrymen and worked to create waves of progressive change across Asia.

"Working on critical issues... they are showing how commitment, competence, and collaborative leadership can truly transform individual lives and galvanise community action," Abella said.

The award, often described as Asia's Nobel Prize, is named after a famous Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash.

It aims to honour people who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity.

One of the 2011 winners was US-trained Indian engineer Harish Hande, 44, for bringing solar lights to a country where half of all households have no electricity, the awards foundation said.

His Solar Electric Light Co.-India has tapped the sun's energy to light up 120,000 households and is now one of the country's largest solar technology providers.

Indonesian social worker Tri Mumpuni, 46, was recognised after her IBEKA foundation built 60 small power plants harnessing the energy of water stored in dams to bring electricity to half a million people, the awards foundation said.

She was once kidnapped with her husband by former separatist rebels in Aceh province while pursuing her non-governmental group's project to bring electricity to rural Indonesia.

In the Philippines, Dutch marine engineer Auke Idzenga's Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation won for using an ancient, near-forgotten technology, the ram pump, to help impoverished communities on Negros island.

Re-engineered for upland farms, the pump gave the communities clean, cheap water for household use and for raising livestock, fish, and small farms, it said.

A ram pump, which does not need an external power source, harnesses the force of a large body of moving water to pump a small amount of water uphill.

Each year six people or organisations are named joint winners of the Magsaysay award.

This year the other winners were a man who set up an Islamic school for girls in Indonesia, a lender to India's poorest, and a man working to restore democracy in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge murdered his father.

The winners are to receive their awards in Manila on August 31.

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