By: Faheem Anwar
DUBAI: In a triumphant moment at the UN climate conference (COP 28) in Dubai, a Pakistani school managed by the Kashmir Orphan Relief Trust (KORT) clinched the Zayed Sustainability Prize, securing a $100,000 award. Recognized as the top Global School in South Asia, the institution earned this prestigious accolade for its groundbreaking initiatives in water conservation and organic farming. Facing stiff competition from two other finalists hailing from India and Bangladesh, the school’s innovative project stood out, exemplifying a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.
United Arab Emirates’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed presented the award to two young representatives of the trust at the gathering at the Expo City in Dubai. The Zayed Sustainability Prize honors the legacy of UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan by rewarding small and medium enterprises, non-profit organizations, and high schools addressing health, food, energy, water, and climate-related challenges.
Over the past 15 years, the prize has been bestowed upon 106 recipients, leading to a positive impact on the lives of an impressive 384 million people globally.
“Our project is on water conservation because, in 2025, clean drinking water will finish in Pakistan,” Sumaiya Bibi, 19, told Arab News after receiving the award on behalf of the trust.
After losing her parents in the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan’s Kashmir region, she found a sense of direction by focusing on climate-related projects.
“We want to set up water filtration plants and sensor taps in our school to minimize water wastage,” she said. “We also want to set up a kitchen garden in our school through organic farming so that the children can get nutrition from the organically grown food.”
KORT School and College of Excellence is based in Azad Kashmir and was set up in 2016 for children who were orphaned in the devastating earthquake. The facility is serving over 500 students.
The trust also opened another school in Swabi this October which can house 450 children. For the past several years, KORT has been supporting and providing orphaned children with education, boarding facilities, food, clothing and medical care.
Kinza Bibi, another 19-year-old student at the education institute in Kashmir who also represented the trust at the event said: “We want the children at the school to learn how to preserve clean water.”
According to the founding chairman of the organization, Chaudhry Mohammed Akhtar, the prize money would be used to undertake projects related to clean water and organic farming in rural areas.
The 11 winners of the prize this year were elected in September by a panel of jury members, who evaluated each submission for its contribution and commitment to delivering impactful, innovative, and inspiring solutions across the six categories of health, food, energy, water, climate action and global high schools.
This year, the 11 winners across all these categories shared a total prize fund of $3.6 million for their pioneering solutions to transform lives and accelerate environmental change around the world.