A campaigning project to rescue and revive an endangered and environmentally-sensitive urban park in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod has won the 2008 Volvo Adventure and the US$10,000 first prize, the five students of the ‘Green Sail' team, beating off stiff competition at the World Final in Gothenburg today (Tuesday).
Having won their own Russian national title, the power of five young students, Arthur Erofyev, Darya Aleksandrova, Mary Ermylova, Nastya Horytonova, Julia Udina was demonstrated on stage at the Gothenburg Convention Centre on Monday as they brought the plight of the park to the world in an inspired and impassioned presentation to the Volvo Adventure World Final jury and an audience of over 500 young environmentalists.
Dubky Park, which has a unique ecosystem with high biodiversity including thousands of mature carbon absorbing trees - amongst them almost 1,000 oak trees over 200-years-old - and is ‘home' to a wide variety of bird, animal and insect life - had been threatened by plans to replace the only green space in the area with a retail park, but the young environmentalists from the ‘Green Sail' project thought differently.
"We have campaigned for two years now to save Dubky Park, arguing our case with a well-planned project of research, analysis and action and winning the 2008 Volvo Adventure is recognition that our efforts have been worth all the effort," said 12-year-old Arthur Erofyev, his team-mate Nastya Horytonova adding, "Thank you to the people of our city of Nizhny Novgorod and also to the Volvo Adventure for sharing, recognizing and rewarding our passion for our park, locally, nationally and internationally."
The 2008 Volvo Adventure brings with it a first prize of US$10,000 with the second and third placed teams winning US$6,000 and US$4,000 respectively.
‘Green Sail' team leader Andrey Patyaev celebrated victory by saying, "This is just the end of the beginning for the project whereas two-years-ago it was the beginning of the end for Dubky Park."
"Our team has worked tirelessly in order to save the park, its ‘residents' and the local ecosystem and we are honoured to have our project recognised on the international stage," he said, adding, "We will reinvest our prize money back into the project and help take it onto the next level."
Commented Siv Persson of WWF, the 2008 Volvo Adventure World Final jury chairperson, "This is an outstanding and brave project on the conservation of a natural park. When the park was threatened with destruction from industry, the students cleaned up the park and gave it new life to re-engage the community to enjoy this place and protect it for the future."
She added, "Protecting old trees, the local heritage of the park and the quality of water in the local river are all benefits of this project and ‘Green Sail,' is a very deserving winner of the 1st Prize of the 2008 Volvo Adventure."
Olle Axelson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at Volvo Car Corporation, presenting the prizes at a glittering gala awards ceremony in Volvo's ‘home' city of Gothenburg commented, "Any of these projects could have won the 2008 Volvo Adventure. The jury has executed a very difficult job with great judgement, integrity and distinction and I would thank our partners UNEP and WWF for their support as well as congratulating these highly-motivated young environmentalists all over the world for taking part.
"The winners, ‘Green Sail,' have shown remarkable courage and conviction in promoting their cause and are worthy winners, but the real winner in this seventh annual Volvo Adventure is the environment itself."
Cecilia Kibare of UNEP, the environmental endorsing body for the Volvo Adventure said, "My congratulations go not only to the winners, ‘Green Sail,' but also to all the teams in the Volvo Adventure World Final and indeed all those who have taken part this year all around the globe.
"It is both exciting and encouraging to note that a good percentage of the projects in general and those brought here to Gothenburg are associated with mitigating the effects of climate change, an issue of the highest concern and priority to the United Nations and UNEP and we are pleased and heartened that the youth of the world are so deeply engaged with this key issue and are committed to making a difference to climate change."
Runners-up and recipients of the US$6,000 second prize was the ‘Green Action,' team from Macedonia for its project to save the nation's endangered population of water buffalo, whilst the third podium place was taken by Volvo Adventure debutants, the Junior Ecoguards of Comoros, the students from the tiny Indian Ocean island saving the Hawksbill Turtle from extinction.
It has been an highly-adventurous 2008 Volvo Adventure, with the team from the American Community School at Beirut, the representatives from Lebanon unable to attend due to the worsening security situation in their country whilst the Junior Ecoguards of Comoros faced flight and visa delays only to make it to Gothenburg with hours to spare.
Meanwhile, speaking from Beruit, Gabriella Romanos the Lebanese project commented, "We are all terribly disappointed not to have been able to make it over the Sweden for what was the culmination of a year's work for us but we would wish all those teams there every success with their project. Her colleague Natalia Alvarez said, "We would like to reassure everyone that, despite our current circumstances, our environmental work goes on and indeed becomes even more important at this time."
For more information, please go to http://www.volvoadventure.org/
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