Tian Guirong, 55, a farmer from Henan, was presented with the “Figures of Green China in 2005” award for her hard work protecting the environment since 1998.
Tian is the founder of the Environmental Protection Volunteers Association of Xinxiang City. She won the titles of “Non-government Environmental Protection Ambassador” and “The First Ten EP (Environmental Protection) People of the Year in China.” She is also the winner of “The Prize for Mother River Protection,” “The People of Our Times" given by Women of China, the “Ford International EP Prize” and the “Gleitsman Prize.”
Since 1998, Tian has collected over 70 tons of used batteries at her own expense, which works out to about 200,000 yuan (US$24,814). She launched the “Tian Guirong EP Website” in September 2001, the first EP website set up by a farmer in China. She also established a non-government EP organization – Environmental Protection Volunteers Association of Xinxiang City – that now has 13,000 members.
Her other achievements include the first non-government EP complaints hotline in Henan; and the successful organization of 25 EP public activities including “You Make the World Greener,” “Ten Thousand Signatures for Ozonosphere Protection,” and the “Green Tour of EP in Central China.”
Tian was in Beijing in November 2005 to attend the Opening Ceremony of China Environment Culture Festival 2005 and the awards ceremony of the Figures of Green China.
As village head, Tian is kept busy everyday with problems relating to the village in addition to her environmental crusade and furthering the rights of farmers to protect their surroundings.
She recalled it being very difficult raising funds to conduct an investigation into the state of the Yellow River. Despite the uphill struggles involved, Tian modestly said that if she isn't able to raise the necessary funds for a project, it only reflects badly on her and her abilities.
On winning the "People of Green China" award, Tian said that she is honored primarily because it is confirmation that the government recognizes the work she has done.
“I collected a lot of used batteries but could not find anywhere to put them. Thankfully, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) helped me out. And now they've given me this honor.
"To me, winning this award is like driving into a gas station and carrying on with a full tank," she said.
Tian added that whether or not the award came with a cash prize, which it didn't, was beside the point. "It's good enough to get some encouragement," she said.
"Moreover, it gives me the opportunity to learn more about forums and volunteer training from more prominent environmentalists like Liang Congjie and Liao Xiaoyi," Tian said.
This isn't the first time that Tian has won an award. Just about the time after she started her environmental work, she was honored with the People of Environmental Protection Award in Xinxiang City and received a cash prize of 20 yuan (US$2.50).
Five people were awarded a prize in 2005, which Tian feels is too few because there are many other people who are working hard for the environment.
(China.org.cn by Xu Lin, February 20, 2006)