TerraGraphics: What the recognition means

 

TerraGraphics is an American environmental engineering company. As an organization, it has supported research and development initiatives to adopt environmental cleanup methods used in the United States to hazardous waste sites in the developing world. Founded in 1984, TerraGraphics has overseen more than 50 sites in 20 countries and contributed to capacity building in developing nations on health intervention, environmental remediation and institutional control techniques developed in the mining and smelter sites in the United States and adapted these to local cultural, economic and socio-economic conditions.

Before the Green Star Award

TerraGraphics has accomplished the implementation of American style environmental cleanup strategies in developing countries through cooperative projects put into practice in conjunction with local governments, universities and NGOs in the host countries. Pilot projects were launched by TerraGraphics in Senegal, Peru, Russia, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Dominican Republic and Nigeria, providing financial and technical assistance to site assessment, the development of community support groups and preliminary clean-up processes. In particular, TerraGraphics’ work in Nigeria, where the world’s most severed lead poisioning epidemic has poisoned around 18,000 villagers and 500 children have died from the effects of artisanal gold mining, was of particular urgency and importance.

After the Green Star Award

TerraGraphics was humbled and honoured to receive the Green Star Award. TerraGraphics’ staff, friends, clients and peers in the engineering consulting industry and academic community greatly appreciated the recognition bestowed upon them by the reception of the Green Star Award. The award validated TerraGraphics’ collaboration with the University of Idaho in undertaking the joint research and development projects and the international programs to adapt U.S. clean-up methodologies to developing countries. The Green Star Award has galvanized TerraGraphics to continue to respond to and prevent lead-poisoning where it is most sorely needed.

The Nigerian lead poisoning epidemic required the undertaking of a major engineering construction project, as well as a medical emergency treatment program, and was executed in some of the most isolated villages of the sub-Saharan bush. Around 50 % of the villages affected by the epidemic were addressed in a combined UNICEF, NGO and Zamfara state effort in 2010-2011. The sheer scale and scope of this model meant that TerraGraphics was unable to undertake this project in research and development mode, too demanding and dangerous for volunteer labour and financially impossible for a private firm. However, in 2012, TerraGraphics established the non-profit TerraGraphics International Foundation (TIFO) in order to be able to continue the projects in a humanitarian capacity. Working in cooperation with Medecins Sans Frontières, TIFO is assisting the Nigerian government to complete the Zamfara clean-up. TIFO will continue to liaise with local governments, communities, universities and NGOs in developing pilot clean-up projects, workshops and capacity building.

Plans for the future

TerraGraphics hopes to continue, along with its new non-profit arm, TIFO, to jointly sponsor teams of graduate students from the United States and host countries in developing and undertaking pilot cleanup projects and building capacity among the next generation, both in the developed, and the developing world. Though TerraGraphics have significantly contributed to the 90% decrease of environmental and childhood lead poisoning in the U.S. and Europe, more children are lead-poisoned worldwide than has ever been recorded. In this sense, the remarkable success in environmental health regulation seen in the developed world should be used as a model to combat the ills of hazardous waste sites in the developing world. The prognosis for the need of emergency environmental action in the foreseeable future offers a daunting challenge, and the necessity for developing capacities to deal with environmental hazards at a local level is of paramount importance. Subsequently, TerraGraphics will continue to provide valuable technical, financial and humanitarian assistance to those in dire need of it.