The herdsman set up the Oniggi River Movement in 2001 to argue for great environmental protection. At first his appeals to the government were ignored, then he organised protest marches.

 

"They do not realise that these mining operations lead to irreversible ecological damage"

Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, activist

As his group rapidly gained support from the many Mongolian shocked by growing pollution, he also appealed to ministers during a 2004 national election and created a parliamentary lobby group.

 

Education

 

Gradually his efforts gained him and his cause international recognition, and on Monday he will formally announced as the winner of the prize in San Francisco, one of five other people selected for the prestigious award from around the world.

 

"Munkhbayar was chosen because of the huge impact he has had on the issue of responsible mining and water protection in Mongolia," Richard N. Goldman, the founder of the prize, said.

 

"Not only has he worked with governmental leaders in crafting appropriate legislation, but he has also made it a point to continue educating the public about their water resources."

 
Munkhbayar said one of his goals was to educate the public about the environment and their rights.

 

"They do not realise that these mining operations lead to irreversible ecological damage," he said.

 

"At first, our environment movement was only one movement in one local area. Now movements in 14 provinces are part of a coalition."

 

He said the next step is for the government to pass a law listing the places where mining is banned.

 

'Respect and credibility'

 

Established in 1990 by the San Francisco-based Goldman Foundation, the annual environmental prize has now been awarded to 119 activists from 70 countries.

 

The winners are nominated confidentially by environmental organisations and individuals worldwide.

 

The other winners this year come from Canada, Zambia, Peru, Ireland and Iceland.

 

Goldman, who started the annual prize with his late wife Rhoda, said the award helps the activists gain respect and credibility with their governments and gives visibility to their causes.