DR. ASHOK KHOSLA: WINNER 2002 UNEP SASAKAWA PRIZE
For more than three decades, Ashok Khosla has worked tirelessly for the protection of the environment. He has made significant contributions to the design and implementation of methods to bring economic activity into harmony with the imperatives of ecological security and social equity.
In the early 1960s, before the environment had become a public issue, he was a leading member of the team that designed and taught the first undergraduate course on the environment at Harvard University. Many features of the complex interactions between the environment and economic systems, human population and natural resources were recognised and explored in this ground-breaking course - some of the impacts of which are documented in the book The Earth in Balance written by one of Khosla's students, former United States Vice-President, Mr. Al Gore.
In 1972, Khosla became the founding director of the Government of India's Office of Environmental Planning and Coordination, the first national environmental agency in a developing country. Over the next five years, he pioneered the design and implementation of the basic systems and structures needed to integrate the environment into the development process of a developing economy and to set and meet national environmental goals. Much of the rapid build-up of policy making processes and of public knowledge on environmental issues at the time was a result of the work done by the teams he led. In 1976, he joined UNEP as Director of INFOTERRA, the International Referral System for Sources of Environmental Information of the United Nations. He oversaw the design and implementation of this international network, helping UNEP establish, in more than 100 countries, a solid recognition of the importance of reliable information and the need for environmental institutions.
In 1983, Khosla founded the Development Alternatives group (DA) of organisations whose mission is to help make national development strategies in India become more environmentally and socially sustainable. Development Alternatives quickly became one of the leading environmental agencies in India and is now recognised worldwide as a premier institution concerned with the environment and sustainable development. Some of the DA's more significant achievements include: · Introduction into the market of more than 15 new environmentally sound and commercially viable technologies. These include machines for weaving handloom textiles, making recycled paper and fabricating low-cost roofing materials, devices that use renewable energy for cooking, lighting and electricity, and the construction of low-cost housing; · The creation of more than 300,000 sustainable jobs in several states of India · The reclamation of some 5,000 hectares of degraded land with innovative reforestation, watershed management and ground water recharge ·
The development of a fully operational Global Information System (GIS) facility and innovative products for regional planning · The installation of several decentralised power stations based on renewable biomass, leading to multiple environmental benefits. Khosla's unique contribution to environmental thought and action is in his focus on dealing with the root causes of environmental problems through the organisations he has created by offering holistic technological and institutional solutions. His achievements in bringing about better environmental quality through enhanced participation by government institutions have few parallels in the South or even in the North.