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Schoolchildren and villagers across Rwanda will receive solar power while more than $85,000 will go to gorilla conservation as part of the lasting legacy of World Environment Day 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced.
UNEP announced the development in a press release issued in Kigali, Rwanda, to commemorate World Environment Day (WED), which was marked on Saturday June 5, 2010 at the Volcanoes National Park.
Under the theme ‘Many Species. One Planet. One Future’, this year’s event celebrated the incredible diversity of life on Earth as part of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.
Rwanda, which was this year’s global host for WED, organised a vivid celebration in the Volcanoes National Park that brought together Hollywood star, Don Cheadle, the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, UNEP Climate Hero and acclaimed wildlife photographer Luo Hong and Achim Steiner, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), alongside environmentalists, businesses and 30,000 people.
While Rwanda led the celebrations with three days of keynote events, thousands of activities were also organised worldwide from Hong Kong to Abidjan, with beach clean-ups, concerts, exhibits, film festivals, community events and much more.
The celebration included the much-anticipated and widely acclaimed traditional Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony at the Volcanoes National Park, during which this year’s People’s Choice name, ‘Zoya’, which was chosen online by 3,485 people around the planet, was announced by Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle.
Kwita Izina, the uniquely Rwandan event to name baby gorillas born in the Volcanoes National Park in the past year, was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness for the conservation of the endangered mountain Gorillas.
This year, the ceremony at the foot of the Virunga Mountains was timed to coincide with World Environment Day on 5 June, which for the first time ever involved the global community.
The winning name, Zoya, was chosen by 1,272 people out of 3,485 people voting online on the WED website from around the planet. Zoya, suggested by a UNEPandYou follower on Twitter, refers to ‘life’ and ‘light’ in several languages: it means ‘shining’ in India, ‘alive’ in Greek, and ‘twilight’ in Iranian. Zoya narrowly beat the runner-up, Yoda – after the beloved Star Wars character – as well as Ijabo and Hitamo.
The WED website also featured a Kids’ Choice vote, which was also announced by wildlife photographer, Luo Hong at the Kwita Izina ceremony, with more than 424 children out of 1,146 voting for the winning name ‘Waka Waka’.
Commenting on the celebration, Mr. Steiner said, “We are especially pleased by this year’s WED celebrations. Not only is Rwanda a pioneer in Green Economic growth with a true commitment to a cleaner development model, we have joined forces with partners to contribute to gorilla conservation and provide hundreds of solar lights for Rwandan villagers and schoolchildren. WED is not just about the here and now – it is about having a positive impact on our collective future.”
The WED Legacy Initiative, launched for WED 2010, was inspired by UNEP’s recent report, ‘The Last Stand of the Gorilla’, which estimated that if current trends continue, gorillas could be lost from their present range in The Greater Congo Basin in 10 to 15 years.
Thus, for every activity or positive environmental action organised and registered on the WED website, UNEP will contribute US$10 towards gorilla conservation through the ‘Take a Stand for the Gorilla’ initiative. As a result of the thousands of activities organised around the world by individuals, communities, NGOs, businesses and governments, UNEP’s WED Legacy fund drive has raised a total of US$50,000, with all the funds going to the Volcanoes National Park.
In addition, more than US$35,000 was generously contributed to the WED Legacy Project by UNEP partners inspired by the initiative. The partners include Mr. Luo Hong, President of the Beijing Holiland Enterprise Investment Management and a long-time supporter of UNEP’s International Children’s Painting Competition, who has donated US$20,000 towards the Legacy Project.
Others are the UNEP National Committee in the Republic of Korea, which has donated US$10,000 raised from an online fund-drive involving Korean citizens, the Kenya Airways Rwanda Office which is making a contribution of US$5,000 and a supermarket chain in Rwanda – Nakumatt, which will contribute one per cent of its gross sales for the whole month of June to the project.
Inspired by the Government of Rwanda’s pursuit of a low-carbon, green path to economic development, energy company Philips is also supporting UNEP’s WED Legacy Initiative with a donation of 300 solar home systems, according to UNEP’s press statement.
Fifty of the systems, it said, will go to the Rubaya Village in Gichumbi District, a pilot village of a joint poverty and environment project between UNEP and the government of Rwanda, while the rest will be distributed to benefit schoolchildren in rural villages where there is no power, enabling them to do their homework at home and complete their education.
Commenting after the donation, Mr. D.P. Smedema, the Chief Executive Officer of Philips Lighting Africa, said: “We are proud to be partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme for World Environment Day. As part of Philips’ broader drive to improve people’s lives, Philips is committed to making affordable, high-quality, energy efficient lighting available to areas where it is most needed. Solar-powered lighting solutions can make a true difference for the people in Rwanda.”
In a final wave of WED celebrations in Rwanda, Don Cheadle, who is an internationally respected humanitarian and environmentalist, was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme on 5 June.
Mr. Cheadle, who starred in the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda in 2004 as hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, is passionate about the link between natural resources and peace and he will advocate sustainable lifestyles, promote the greening of the entertainment industry and other sectors, and take part in UNEP public outreach initiatives.
By Edmund Smith-Asante