17 Sep 2019 Press release Water

Young environmental prize winner for Latin America and the Caribbean invents a new solar solution to purify drinking water

  • Twenty-one-year-old Brazilian Anna-Luisa Beserra wins the prestigious Young Champions of the Earth Prize in Latin America and the Caribbean for making a cistern solution for clean water.
  • Seven young entrepreneurs under the age of 30 with big ideas for environmental change have been recognized from across the globe.
  • Young Champions from every region receive seed funding, mentoring and communications support to amplify their efforts. 

17 September 2019 – Twenty-one-year-old Anna-Luisa Beserra, Founder of Aqualuz, has won the Young Champions of the Earth Prize for her device which disinfects rainwater captured in cisterns through solar radiation.

As world leaders gather at the UN Headquarters in New York for the Climate Action Summit and General Assembly in the coming days, climate and the environment will be at the forefront of discussions. Youth around the world are already taking action, because there is no time to lose.

Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, linked to unsafe drinking water and a lack of improved sanitation and hygiene access. The burden of disease often falls on the young, poor, and those in rural areas.

Beserra’ solution Aqualuz is an innovative filter which purifies rainwater collected in a cistern installed in rural areas where running water is not accessible, a situation which affects more than a million people in Brazil. The water in the cistern is purified using rays from the sun. An indicator changes color when the water is safe to drink.

“My purpose is to bring the basic right of clean water to disadvantaged communities in rural areas,” said Beserra. “We want to help make people’s lives better and potentially save lives.”

Her invention is low-cost and easy to maintain, and can last up to 20 years. While so far used only in Brazil, it has potential for application in other countries. Aqualuz has already delivered clean drinking water to 265 people and will reach another 700 this year.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Our water-stressed planet is bearing the brunt of relentless extraction, pollution and climate change. It’s vital that we find new ways to protect, recycle and reuse this precious resource. Making drinking water safe and accessible for all is vital for delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Markus Steilemann, Chief Executive Officer of Covestro, said: “The business world needs fresh thinking and much more of a start-up culture to tackle global environmental challenges, while ensuring our long-term growth. The Young Champions of the Earth can help achieve this and everyone at Covestro is proud to support them. We want to help make the world a brighter place.”

A global jury, made up of Covestro Chief Executive Officer Markus Steilemann, UN Environment Programme’s Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya, VICE News Tonight’s science and climate change correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake and Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation, selected the winners among 35 regional finalists from over 1,000 applicants.

Over the next year, the creative, innovative and impactful initiatives of the winners will be documented on social media, through regular news updates and video blogs. Sign up and follow their journey here

The prestigious Young Champions of the Earth prize, powered by Covestro, is awarded every year by the UN Environment Programme to young environmentalists between the ages of 18 and 30, for their outstanding ideas to protect the environment. 

Anna-Luisa is one of seven winners from Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and West Asia. The winners will receive their award during the Champions of the Earth Ceremony in New York City on 26 September, coinciding with the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting and the Climate Action Summit.



About the Young Champions of the Earth

The Young Champions of the Earth Prize was first started in 2017, offering the prestigious and highly successful Champions of the Earth platform – with laureates including heads of state, inspiring scientists, and environmental visionaries – to brilliant young environmentalists with a vision.

About UN Environment Programme

UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About Covestro

With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life.

For more information contact: 

Keishamaza Rukikaire, UN Environment Programme, Head of News and Media