GMS Summit Showcases Winning Environmental Ideas from Youth

By Anna Oposa

The recent summit of Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Environment Ministers provided a showcase for ideas from the region’s youth in three major fields of environmental work through the Youth4ASIA competition.

The recent summit of Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Environment Ministers provided a showcase for ideas from the region’s youth in three major fields of environmental work through the Youth4ASIA competition.

ADB's Youth Initiative launched the competition back in November 2014 to solicit ideas for innovative projects, and more generally to promote youth work in Asia and Pacific. For the summit, entrants submitted their proposals in three main areas: Environmental Management; Biodiversity Restoration; and Poverty Reduction and Social Entrepreneurship for environment preservation.

Aside from being one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world, the GMS is also one of the most environmentally rich and biologically diverse places on the planet, where 1,200 new species have been found in the last 20 years.

There were six winning proposals in the competition —one from each of the six GMS countries. The finalists were invited to present their proposals at the EMM4 in December in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

They were Songkran Panya of Utokapat Foundation (Thailand); Nguyen Nhu Thach Truc of Ruy Bang Xanh (Viet Nam); Cheb Hoeurn of the Solid Waste Management Center (Cambodia); Zekai Wang of Youthink Center (People’s Republic of China [PRC]);  Phoutsada Chonephetsalath of Social Environmental Education and Development (the Lao PDR); and Htay Susuayeaung of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry - Environmental Conservation Department (Myanmar).

Environmental champions for forests and waste management

In Thailand, Utokapat Foundation engages the community in developing, conserving, and restoring natural resources. Their project site, Ban Num Puk, is a community in the area of the Ing River Basin, a sub-river basin of the Mekong River. The community faced problems in flooding, deforestation, and insufficient water, among others. The youth in Ban Num Puk addressed these issues by building 10 check-dams for storing water, 15 check-dams as sediment traps, planting trees, and creating a boundary map. About 16,500 households have benefitted from their initiatives.

Ruy Bang Xanh is a youth organization that began at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Viet Nam, with 59 members. Their project, Green Ribbon, raises awareness on littering. The green ribbon serves as a representation of the campaign, and wearing it shows a commitment not to litter. The project involves orientations in schools about the importance of a clean environment. They have successfully launched the Green Ribbon Campaign in 15 universities around Viet Nam, and teach it in nine pre-school and primary schools in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Solid Waste Management Center is a research project with Okoyama University of Japan that reviews the municipal solid waste management (MSWM) system in Phnom Penh City, Cambodia. It examines the MSWM’s characteristics, treatments, potentials, benefits, and determines paths for improvement. As a result of the research, the students have begun an awareness campaign in the Royal University of Phnom Penh on pre-treatment at source.

Stewards for green entrepreneurship and education

The ThinkBIG Initiative by the Youthink Center, based in the PRC, is a social enterprise that provides capacity building and project incubation. This youth-based think tank promotes advanced green technology and environment-friendly systems nationwide, particularly in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. They work with the community by providing technical and capital support to run their enterprises.

Social Environmental Education and Development (SEED) is a nonprofit organization led by students in the National University of Laos. It works hand in hand with the government and NGOs in studying the agro paddy system, which is an important sector of the national economy. They mobilized students to study organisms in these paddy systems, and the data collected contributed to books on rice field ecosystems.

The Ministry of Environment Conservation and Forestry in Myanmar launched the Communication, Education, and Public Awareness campaign to reduce the loss of biodiversity and to promote conservation. They have carried out various activities such as awareness-raising campaigns, capacity building projects, and networking with stakeholders to create policies and develop incentives for the public to preserve the environment.

All winners will receive mentorship and support, linkages to networks, and exposure in ADB events and platforms.

What’s next for Youth4Asia?

The next theme for Youth4ASIA project winners is Health. The deadline for entries for this is closed, but there will be two more calls for applications, on the themes Education and Employment, and Citizenship and Governance.