Acceptance Speech by Zhou Qiang

Your Excellency Mr. Toepfer, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Water is the source of life, the soul of all living creatures as well as the cradle of civilizations. While falling down from the sky, it takes the form of rain and dew; while on the Earth, it forms numerous rivers and streams. Each different river waters a different tract of land, nurtures a different group of people and breeds a different type of civilization. The thousands of rivers on the earth nurture together the mankind with their 'milk'. Hence, we give them collectively the lofty and great name-the 'mother river'.

Today, it is a great honor for me to accept, at the solemn UN Headquarters, the inaugural Champions of the Earth Award from the United Nations Environment Program to me and the All-China Youth Federation. It is a great honor for me in that the award signifies the recognition of the international community for the little effort I have made in environmental protection, in that the award is an honor for 480 million Chinese young people, and in that we could fulfill our shared duty to the 'mother river'.

I grew up along the banks of China's longest river-the Yangtze. It was from there that I embarked on my journey of life. Therefore, I cherish a boundless love for the Yangtze, and always harbor in the bosom of my heart an intimate sonly sentiment towards the mountains and rivers of my motherland. I remember when I was young I often played along riverside and swam in river, and drank the spring water when I felt thirsty. Many years have elapsed, the mighty Yangtze still rumbles downstream. Yet, the brook close to my native village has lost its appearance and beauty. Numerous clear streams have told me a great many beautiful fairytales, and the 'mother river' has imbued in me a lot of wonderful dreams!

The All-China Youth Federation has all along endeavored to the undertaking of eco-environmental protection. In recent years, in particular, we mobilized hundreds of millions of Chinese young people to plant trees and grass along the banks of big rivers. Now, the little trees have grown up, forming tract upon tract of green and luxuriant forests. I am one of them and march in their ranks. With my all sincerity and love, I have felt the perfect harmony between man and nature-my soul has got purified and my spirit has been refined.

The contribution made by young people in China is inseparable from the great importance attached to eco-environmental protection by the Chinese government and the scientific decisions made by it. In the drive to build a better-off society in an all-round way, the Chinese government has developed and carried out a concept of scientific development and make strenuous efforts to achieve harmony between man and nature and to bring about a sustainable development. Compared with any previous period, the Chinese government sets greater store by the protection and utilization of various environmental resources, including water, and has adopted a series of policies to build a water-saving and pollution-preventing society, fully indicating its scientific attitude and firm determination in protecting the environment.

At this moment, when I stand on this rostrum to accept the award, I feel more than anything, apart from the honor you dub on me, a sacred duty. In today's world, the population is booming, and the economy and society are developing rapidly. Yet, the damage and shortage of water resources are threatening the survival and development of human race. In none too lengthy a historical span, many oases which signified life have dried up and turn cracked, many clear and limpid streams have turned muddy and dirty, people used to live by water have been compelled to leave their homes and roam about for a living, the once splendid ancient kingdom of Kroraina has been buried under desert.... The 'mother river' has been subject to a severe test. In face of this situation, what are our duties and what should we do?

We are grateful to the mother river, and we sing praises of the mother river. Yet, more important, we must care for the mother river.

We are grateful to the 'mother river' because her bounties have sustained the endless course of human civilization and carried on it the Ark of Noah-the hope of mankind.

We sing praises of the mother river because she has thrown upon us her motherly love, showed great tenacity, and harbors in her the humanity and wisdom of the worthy.

We protect the mother river. In this, people throughout world should join hands and work with one mind, making efforts to let thousands of mother rivers in the world, the Mississippi, the Danube, the Nile, the Yangtze and the Yellow River, to 'dialogue' with civilization and pour into the vast blue ocean, let the 'mother river' flow to the east vigorously to benefit our future generations, let the 'mother river' bring greater harmony to society and enable us to stay far away from war and diseases, and let the 'mother river' irrigate the beautiful home of mankind to make the earth on which we all rely more colorful and always youthful.

Let each of us become a champion of the 'mother river', a champion of the earth!

Thank you!