IUCN CEC Chair’s Youth Award Winner

Vedharajan Balaji of India has been awarded the IUCN CEC Chair’s Youth Award for his outstanding work to restore coastal environments and raise awareness amongst local communities and children of the importance of coastal ecosystems.

Children attend a mangrove biodiversity awareness event at a remote coastal village school in Palk Bay, India.

Vedharajan will be presented with the award at the upcoming CEC meeting of the IUCN World Conservation Congress on the 6th of September 2012 at the ICC Jeju in Korea.

A panel of eight judges reviewed the 12 complete applications from seven men and five women from many countries (Bangladesh, Belgium / Georgia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal / UK / Seychelles / Costa Rica, Ukraine, and United States of America). Keith Wheeler, Chair of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication said, “We received many strong applications and the panel of judges and I were very impressed to see so many outstanding young professionals actively pursuing environmental initiatives around the world.

  • We were inspired by the outstanding work that Vedharajan and the OMCAR (Organization for Marine Conservation, Awareness and Research) Foundation are doing in India. This is an excellent example of proactive outreach to the community on issues that are really very important to them, to their natural environment and to society more widely. We hope that through Vedharajan’s acceptance of this award it will enable us to showcase his experience and inspire others to take similar action.”

When Vedharajan was 17 years old in 1997, he was interested to talk about the beauty of sea grass beds of local coast and underwater photos of his self-made under-water camera to local school children. Inspired by motorcycle diaries of Che Guevara, he arranged an old motor bike and packed 5000 pamphlets about local marine conservation issues for travelling 1200 km along 590 fisher villages of his state in June 2002. Since then he has completed many other adventures, traveling hundreds of kilometers to remote coastal villages and directly working with the local communities to raise awareness amongst thousands of children and fisher youth about protection of local coastal ecosystems. You can see more about Vedharajan and the OMCAR Foundation in this CEC news story  and the OMCAR website.

This award is part of CEC’s commitment to supporting and showcasing the outstanding work being undertaken by youth and young professionals around the world. Dominic Stucker, CEC Steering Committee Member who coordinates the Youth and Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability network, was very pleased to see such a strong field of candidates for the award. The award was based on the nominee’s commitment to the IUCN vision of a ‘just world that values and conserves nature’; a specific successful project that the nominee led including aspects inspired by CEC approaches; and what role the Nominee would expect to play at the IUCN World Conservation Congress as a CEC member and a young professional.

For more information on Youth and Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability click here.

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