St Andrews Prize now down to the final three

The old quad of St Andrews University.
The old quad of St Andrews University.

Three environmental projects have been shortlisted for the prestigious St Andrews Prize which will be decided at a seminar to be held next week in the town.

A total of 208 entries were submitted from 60 countries and whittled down to the three finalists, who will present their initiatives to a distinguished panel of judges at St Andrews University on Wednesday

A joint initiative spearheaded by St Andrews University and international energy company ConocoPhillips, it aims to find practical solutions to environmental challenges from around the globe and carries a first prize of $100,000 and a medal, with the two runners-up each receiving $25,000.

Vying to win the coveted award is a project involving Maasai warriors conserving lions in Kenya, a scheme to deliver reliable water purification technology across the world and efforts to supply sustainable sanitation in urban slums.

Sir Crispin Tickell, chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment’s trustees, said: ”We are delighted that the Prize has become so well established and in this, our 14th successive year, it continues to attract such a range of innovative projects from all over the world.

“We very much look forward to meeting this year’s finalists and to hearing about their projects which aim to help make the world a better place.”

The finalists include The Lion Guardians, who employ 32 non-literate Maasai warriors in Kenya as community conservationists and field biologists and have created an entrepreneurial solution through employment and empowering communities to conserve lions as a long-term livelihood strategy.

The Maasai’s relationship with lions is complex. The animals are both a source of anxiety as they kill livestock and threaten livelihoods, and are a central element in symbolic rituals that convey prestige and status.

The programme’s activities includes literacy training for the Maasai, mitigating lion-livestock conflict, monitoring lion populations by combining traditional and modern tracking with high levels of local participation, preventing lion killing by employing local leaders and the naming of the beasts by the Maasai, as familiarity breeds ownership.

Also shortlisted is Aqua21, ozone-based water purification technology, which aims to deliver non-chemical, low carbon and reliable water purification technology to a global market. The superiority of ozone-based technology over other treatment methods is scientifically accepted and widely acknowledged but capital costs, energy requirements and unit size have previously restricted application.

This technology overcomes these hurdles and its unique and proven scalability can deliver safe, clean water to kitchen taps, industrial processes and in emergency aid situations, at significantly lower energy and capital costs than established alternatives.

The other finalist is Sanergy, providing sustainable sanitation in urban slums. Eight million people in the slums of Kenya lack access to adequate sanitation, causing four million metric tons of untreated human waste to be discharged into the surrounding soil and waterways.

Throughout the slums, Sanergy is building a dense network of small-scale high quality sanitation centres located close to homes. The waste from these toilets is collected in containers by Sanergy employees who transport them to the central processing facility and replace them with clean empty containers.

The waste is used to produce organic fertiliser and electricity through biogas. New technologies are also being developed to convert the waste into bio-char and animal feed.

All the submissions are assessed by a panel of trustees representing science, industry and Government, with the award going to the project they consider displays the best combination of good science, economic realism and political acceptability.