Vietnam’s Students Represent for Swedish Environment Contest

Three high-school students who cleaned up an oil spill on a river using fibres from a local kapok tree have won first prize in a national environment contest.
Phan Phuoc Duy, Tran Trung Hoang and Vo Phi Thoan, from An Lac Thon High School in southern Soc Trang province, discovered the oil spreading on the Cai river as they went to school by boat where they often see oil pollution on canals, rivers that affect the life of people and aquatic animals in the region where they live.
After much trial and error, they found that the silky fibres from fruit of local kapok trees that are often used as a stuffing for pillows and mattresses, would absorb the oil without harming the environment.
“At first, we collected many kinds of natural materials, such as sugarcane refuse and coconut fibre to see if they would do the job. But we found kapok cotton was better,” said Duy.
He said kapok fibre absorbed the oil, but very little water. There are many kapok trees in the region.
The project was chosen from nearly 150 other entries at An Lac Thon High School and entered in the fourth Protecting Water Resources competition, which the three students won on June 3.
The contest was organised by the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Life and Science newspaper and the Vietnam Environment and Nature Protection Association.
It was funded by the Swedish International Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which encourages the protection of water supplies by fostering creativity and research among young people.
The winners received US $300 and will fly to Sweden to compete for the International Stockholm Water Prize, an annual water resource competition funded by the Stockholm Fund.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize seeks to raise young individuals’ engagement in the common water environment, on local as well as global levels. The aim is to support young students’ interest in water conservation, water protection and water resources management.
Finalists at the international competition in Stockholm are the winners of national contests. Eligibility is open to young people up to the age of 20 who have not started higher education and who have contributed to water conservation and improvement through projects focusing on local, regional, national or global topics.
The winner receives a US$5,000 award and a blue crystal sculpture in the shape of a water droplet. Though just one individual or group wins the international award each year, many national winners are produced and thousands of young people become involved in water and science issues as a result.
HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is the patron of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

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