Eight sustainable energy projects won $1,000 - $1,500 prizes at an award ceremony Wednesday at the University of Kurdistan-Hawler. Photo: Karzan Saadon/UNDP Iraq/2017
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A cleaner and greener Kurdistan Region was the focus at the 2017 Student Innovation Competition on Sustainable Energy awards ceremony on Wednesday evening when more than 300 attendees recognized individuals and teams who created projects that offer environmental solutions.
“This was a very interesting and challenging initiative and we wanted to involve the youth as much as possible because this is where the awareness starts,” said Isabela Uribe, Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Erbil.
“I think the students did a great job,” she continued. “They created very interesting projects. We were excited to read them and you saw it was fun, even the videos were made by them.”
But most importantly, she mentioned, projects like this are important because they bring awareness to Kurdistan’s youth about climate change problems and the importance to take measures to improve the environment through sustainable energy.
“The sun is free everywhere, but here there are 300 sunny days annually. Solar or renewable or alternative sources of energy are not that much utilized,” she said.
Uribe said that their particular project will be over soon but the UNDP hopes the local authorities will take over.
“I know the Ministry of Planning [Ali Sindi] is very much involved in this and he wants to make it his national policy. So we hope to see this.”
There were more than 50 projects received and evaluated in four categories: Resource Conservation and/or Energy Efficiency, Transport in Cities, Renewable Energy Sources, and Smart Technologies.
Of the projects submitted, there were a total of eight awards given. First place winners received $1,500 and second place winners received $1,000. There was also a People’s Choice Award for $1000 given to the video that had the most likes on Facebook.
The winning team for the “Transport in Cities” category was Selar Fayaq and Levi Clancy for their project entitled ‘Greenistan.’ This is a smart phone app that connects passengers with safe, registered taxi drivers with specific profiles. It also connects passengers with buses near them and ensures the safety of women traveling alone.
Fayaq said it felt great winning such a competition as he feels their idea is being supported. “They are not going to apply the idea, it’s up to us to apply it, but they are supporting us and pushing us to bring this idea to life,” he said.
Another idea in the “Resource Conservation” category was encouraging people to recycle their food waste in a special hand-made box containing soil that will convert the waste into an organic fertilizer that people can use for planting their own fruits and vegetables.
Other examples which were shortlisted included ways to turn Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimani into smart cities, turning energy of flaring gas into electricity, and either recycling or redistributing food waste to disadvantaged people.
The UNDP project was launched in January 2017 by the Local Area Development Programme (LADP), implemented by the UNDP, funded by the European Union (EU) and supported by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The project encouraged environmentally friendly ideas to improve living standards in the Kurdistan Region by decreasing the loss of natural and financial resources and bringing economic growth.
“This is one of the unconventional initiatives,” Uribe explained. “This is the initiative of the European Covenant of Mayors [for Climate & Energy] which is the biggest initiative of mayors in the world fighting climate change.”
The organization has more than 6,000 mayor members worldwide.
“This is the first of this kind of this event in Kurdistan,” she said. “After this the mayors of Kurdistan will also become members of the European Covenant of Mayors.”
Rawshan Hassan, Area Coordinator for the UNDP covering Duhok, Erbil and Sulaimani, told Rudaw English that “Innovation is the currency of the future so when we are using the capability of these youths at this stage, we are using their energy and the power for the innovation of Kurdistan.”