fighting for the environment
Marc Ona Essangui’s story is an inspiring one if not sad at the same time. An environmentalist who has been jailed for his fight to protect Gabon’s rainforest. Ona, has been an activist since he developed polio as a child – campaigning for disabled rights and the environment. He once commented: “My fight is the fight of all the people concerned with the survival of the planet. Our forest is home to the most extraordinary biodiversity. It is also a huge natural pharmacy. To destroy it would mean the ruin of humanity.”
Yesterday, Ona, won the Goldman environmental prize, the world’s richest prize for grassroots environmentalists, for his fight to save Gabon’s protected Ivindo national park against development. He will share the $900,000 (£607,000) prize between the winners from six continental regions. The Ivindo park was created in 2002 to protect the Kangou Falls, as well as the forest elephants, chimpanzees and the myriad of rare plants and animals, which form the rich ecosystems of Gabon’s equatorial rainforest. The 3,000-square-kilometre park is part of a conservation effort by President Omar Bongo, Africa’s longest-ruling leader, who declared 11% of the country’s territory as national parks in 2002.
However, the president has backed the Chinese-led Belinga project, a controversial $3.5bn iron ore mining development, which includes a mine, railroads, a deep-water port north of the capital, Libreville, and a dam on the Ivindo river at the Kangou Falls. Even behind bars the fight will go on for Marc Ona and many others. Inspiration sits on the corner of every street!