Sep 29, 2009
We're delighted to announce that Nnimmo Bassey, from Friends of the Earth Nigeria, and Syeda Rizwana Hasan, from Friends of the Earth Bangladesh, have been nominated by Time magazine as heroes of the environment for 2009.
In his interview with Time magazine Nnimmo talks of how a massacre in 1990 by Nigeria's armed forces prompted him into championing the environment and rights of the people around him.
"We realized that if people don't have a safe environment to live in, then they don't have literally any other rights," he says.
He talks about the work of Friends of the Earth Nigeria in documenting the environmental abuse caused by the oil companies, his efforts to educate people on their rights and the fact that his work often puts him on a collision course with the authorities.
"Oil has been the destruction of the Nigerian economy," says Bassey. "It destroys the relation between the people and the state" he says.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan
Rizwana, who is also a member of the Friends of the Earth International board, has been nominated for her legal work in advocating for tighter regulations for the country's environmentally devastating ship-breaking industry
Ship breaking is a big employer in Bangladesh - last year over 150 ships were decommissioned - and the authorities often turn a blind out to the immense harm it causes.
Rizwana sees it differently, "It's better to be jobless than to have a job that gives you cancer" she says.
In March 2009, the Supreme Court laid down strict regulations on the industry, resulting in the closure of 36 ship breaking yards operating without environmental clearance.
The government has since appealed against the ruling but Rizwana and her team will fight on.
"I don't want the outside world to think of Bangladesh as a dumping site," she says. "It is against my dignity. It is against the dignity of my nation and the dignity of the people."