Climate Change

Sonam Wangchuk wins the Magsaysay

The Ladakhi engineer, environmentalist and innovator has been awarded ‘Asia’s Nobel’ for ‘harnessing nature, culture and education for community progress’

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 26 July 2018

Ladakhi engineer, innovator, environmentalist and educationist Sonam Wangchuk is among two Indians who have been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize.

“In electing Sonam Wangchuk to receive the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “his uniquely systematic, collaborative and community-driven reform of learning systems in remote northern India, thus improving the life opportunities of Ladakhi youth, and his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society to harness science and culture creatively for economic progress, thus setting an example for minority peoples in the world,” a statement on the Award’s website noted.

Besides Wangchuk, psychiatrist Bharat Vatwani, also from India, Youk Chhang from Cambodia, Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz from East Timor, Howard Dee from the Philippines and Vo Thi Hoang Yen from Vietnam have also been named in the list of awardees.

Besides being known for his efforts to improve the imparting of education to Ladakhi students, Wangchuk is also known for his role as an environmentalist in his native Ladakh, an area witnessing the vagaries of climate change. In 2015, Down To Earth had reported how Wangchuk was leading the charge in harvesting water by building so-called ‘ice-stupas’ in Ladakh. 

Wangchuk is also known in popular culture to be the inspiration behind Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s character, ‘Phunsukh Wangdu’ in the popular movie, ‘3 idiots’.

Since its inception in 1957, over 330 individuals and organisations have joined the distinguished community of Ramon Magsaysay Awardees.

This year's Magsaysay Award winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late Philippine President, Ramon Magsaysay after whom the award is named and a cash prize. They will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during formal presentation ceremonies to be held on August 31, 2018 at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in Manilla.

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