The clash of two worlds in the Peruvian Amazon
government chose the symbolic date of World Environment Day to
launch a bloody attack on the peoples of the Amazon. The reason
for this repression? The steadfast opposition of Amazonian communities
to the invasion of their territory by socially and environmentally
destructive industries such as mining, oil drilling, and monoculture
plantations of trees and agrofuel crops.
On 9 April
local communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon had begun what
they called an “indefinite strike” to protest the failure of the
Peruvian Congress to review a series of legislative decrees that
endanger the rights of indigenous peoples. These decrees were
issued by the executive branch in the framework of the implementation
of the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States.
this massacre on World Environment Day, the Alan García
government clearly showed the world how little concern it has
for environmental protection and how highly it values the large
corporations that hope to exploit – and simultaneously destroy
– the country’s natural resources. Even worse, it publicly declared
its contempt for the lives of the indigenous peoples struggling
to defend what little has been left to them by the advance of
a “development” model that has more than proven to be socially
and environmentally destructive.
As a result
of this bloody repression and the public attention it attracted
worldwide, the Peruvian Amazon became a symbol of the clash between
two different conceptions of the present and future of humanity,
played out on the international stage.
On one side
of this conflict there is the world of economic interest, which
signifies social and environmental destruction, imposition by
force, violation of rights. Obviously, this world is not represented
by the Peruvian president, who is merely a temporary and disposable
assistant to the corporations – a fact now evidenced by the fate
of the once all-powerful president Fujimori. Nevertheless, the
role played by these assistants is very important, since they
are the ones who lend the necessary trappings of “legality” to
actions that clearly violate the most basic human rights.
On the other
side there is the world of those who aspire to a future of solidarity
and respect for nature. In this case, they were symbolized by
the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, but they can also be found
in similar struggles around the world, confronting other governments
who are also at the service of the economic interests of big corporations.
To mention just a few examples, we could point to the current
struggle in Southeast Asian countries to defend the Mekong River
– which provides sustenance for millions of people – from destruction
by giant hydroelectric dams; the struggle of the peoples of Africa
against oil drilling and logging; the struggle of the tribal peoples
of India to protect their forests from mining; and far too many
In this confrontation,
the hypocrisy of those striving to impose the destructive model
is seemingly unbounded. In the case of Peru, President Alan García,
the same man who now wants to open up the Amazon to extractive
industries, declared just over a year ago that he wanted “to prevent
this basic wealth that God has given us from being degraded by
the works of man, by the incompetence of those who work the land
or exploit it economically, and that is why we created this Ministry
of the Environment.”
of government hypocrisy is blatantly evident all around the world,
especially with regard to climate change. During an endless international
process that began in 1992, the governments of the world agreed
that climate change is the worst threat facing humankind. They
also agreed that the two main causes of climate change are greenhouse
gas emissions created by the use of fossil fuels and deforestation.
Finally, they agreed that something must be done about it. And
after signing the corresponding agreements and flying back to
their countries, they have done everything in their power to promote
oil drilling and/or deforestation.
to create ministries of the environment or participate in international
processes to combat climate change, peoples around the world are
taking action to defend the environment and climate from the threats
looming over them. In almost all cases, their actions are criminalized
or reppressed – in both the South and the North – by those who
should be encouraging and supporting them: their governments.
In the now
symbolic case of Peru, the peoples of the Amazon – with the support
of thousands of citizens around the world – have won an important
battle in this clash between two worlds. Obviously, no one believes
that this is the end of the struggle. But it is a victory that
provides hope for many other peoples fighting for similar goals,
and ultimately for the whole world, because the final outcome
of this confrontation between two worlds will determine the fate
of all of humanity.
Citizens to Hand 15,000 Signature “Save the Mekong” Petition to
In a bold outpouring of public concern for Southeast Asia’s Mekong
River, more than 15,000 people from within the six-country Mekong
region and around the world have signed a “Save the Mekong” petition
urging governments to abandon plans for hydropower development
along the river’s mainstream. The petition – written in seven
languages - will be hand-delivered to Thailand’s Prime Minister
H.E. Abhisit Vejjajiva on 18 June in Bangkok, and sent to other
government leaders within the region.
government backing for dam building on the Mekong River, over
10,000 people from within the Mekong region have signed the petition
addressed to the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand
and Vietnam urging them to keep the river flowing freely and to
pursue less damaging electricity options. The petition is signed
by fishers and farmers living along the river’s mainstream and
tributaries, as well as by monks, students, city-folk and even
some of the region’s well-known celebrities. Another 5,000 people
around the world signed the postcards and an online petition.
signatories wrote personal messages to the region’s leaders:
hydropower dams block our children's future!” Wang Dezhi,
the Mekong dams. The existing dams in Thailand already make brothers
and sisters fight against each other!” Mak Vangdokmai, Roi
“I love my
country. I don’t want to see some people destroy my home country
for greed. So I would like to do my best to protect our Mekong!”
Sneampay, Vientiane, Laos
“If the dams
happen, where will all of us go to live?” Villager, Stung
Treng province, Cambodia.
saving our resources! Electricity is not everything!” Nguyen
provide a critical source of food and income for millions of people
along the river. Recent official estimates place the annual value
of the river’s wild capture fisheries to be worth up to US$3 billion.
Mainstream dams will block the massive fish migrations that count
for up to 70% of the river’s commercial fish catch and that ensure
regional food security. Experience around the world demonstrates
that there is no way to mitigate the fisheries impacts of such
groups in the Mekong region and internationally have been sounding
the alarm about plans to build eleven hydro dams on the Lower
Mekong mainstream for many years, in what is often described as
an uphill battle.
SEE FULL PRESS
RELEASE AT http://www.wrm.org.uy/deforestation/dams/Press_Release_Mekong.pdf
on the Save the Mekong initiative and government-backed plans
to dam the Mekong is available in English, Burmese, Chinese, Khmer,
Lao, Thai and Vietnamese on the coalition’s web site www.SavetheMekong.org
sugarcane’s bitter consequences
In our country,
one of the crops that has caused the most negative impacts from
its start to the present day is sugarcane. The sugarcane plantations
are located in the Pacific Plains, a rich area with fertile soils
of volcanic origin and abundant water from rainfall and the rivers
born in the volcanic chain. These conditions were perfect for
the development of this crop and the expansion of sugar mills.
Today Guatemala is the fifth largest exporter of sugar in the
world and second in production in Latin America and the Caribbean.
14 sugar mills are in operation and in 2007 sugarcane plantations
covered 216,000 hectares, approximately the same size as the Department
of Guatemala (225,300 hectares) an appreciable area considering
the size of our country (108,889 km2).
One of the
most serious problems of monoculture sugarcane plantations is
the total destruction of the ecosystems where they are located.
In Guatemala this has led to the disappearance of vast areas of
Added to the
above is the exaggerated use of water which affects the human
communities and causes direct and indirect negative impacts on
terrestrial and coastal marine ecosystems. Burning sugarcane contaminates
the environment, affects the health of neighbouring communities
and releases CO2, one of the greenhouse gases. The burning of
these plantations, year after year contributes to increasing global
warming. During the harvest, the sugar mills change the course
of rivers towards their plantations, leaving the communities without
water; while at the same time also dumping their contaminated
waste in them.
and ditches, opened up for irrigation in the plantations, carry
the water inland and cause flooding during the rainy season, placing
many villages at risk. To this is added the contamination caused
by the excessive use of agrochemicals, pesticides and chemical
ripeners that are transported by the rivers towards coastal marine
ecosystems such as mangroves.
One of the
problems encountered by the sugar industry is the amount of land
available to expand its plantations. According to statements made
in 2007 by Armando Boesche, manager of the Guatemalan Sugar Growers
Association (Asazgua - Asociación de Azucareros de Guatemala)
“Now there is no land available because we have reached the limit.”
This situation has become a threat to ecosystems and local inhabitants
and is sensitive in a country where land disputes have led to
wars, disappearances and death.
A clear example
of the lack of land was the transfer in 2006 of the Guadalupe
sugar mill to the Polochic River valley in Izabal near the wildlife
refuge and Ramsar Site of Bocas del Polochic. This situation directly
and indirectly threatens the wetlands and wildlife due to the
changing of river courses and the use of agrochemicals that are
transported to this body of water by rain and runoff, risking
stepping up the growth of Hydrilla verticillata, an invasive plant
that has been established in this location for several years now.
the South the sugarcane plantations do not seem to have reached
“the limit,” as they continue to expand, with the felling of the
last trees and riparian forests that protected the river courses.
They have had negative impacts on endangered species such as the
Yellow-necked Parrot, in serious danger of extinction. The sugarcane
frontier has reached the mangrove shores and localities such as
Iztapa and Hawai, two areas that still conserve this endangered
ecosystem. The plantations reach their borders, causing isolation
has yet been made in Guatemala of the accumulative negative impacts
of these monoculture plantations that affect both the neighbouring
communities and local ecosystems. In the meanwhile, the people
continue to sweeten drinks and food, oblivious of the bitter impacts
of this monoculture on nature and on people.
Salvatierra. SAVIA –Escuela de Pensamiento Ecologista-Guatemala
The long arm of justice is finally catching up on Shell
On June 9
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)
has released a press statement describing the outcome of the landmark
suit instituted by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr and other Ogonis accusing
Shell of complicity in the execution of author and human rights
activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders in 1995, among
other human rights abuses, as a significant milestone in the search
for justice in the bloody oil fields of the Niger Delta.
twist and turns lasting nearly fourteen years, Shell has been
forced to pay an out-of-court settlement put at $15.5 million
to the Ogoni plaintiffs who have struggled to hold the company
accountable for complicity in atrocities committed against the
Ogoni people in the 1990s, including the execution of Saro-Wiwa.
had in a suit instituted at a New York court, alleged Shell financed,
armed, and colluded with the Nigerian military forces during the
Sani Abacha years that used deadly force and conducted massive,
brutal raids against the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta.
announcement of the settlement on Monday (June 8, 2009), Shell
in a hasty statement said its decision was “a compassionate payment
to the plaintiffs and the estates they represent in recognition
of the tragic turn of events in Ogoni land, even though Shell
had no part in the violence that took place.”
Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey dismissed the company’s claim
in a statement issued in Lagos, insisting that “Shell’s sudden
decision to settle out of court is a clear indication that the
company is guilty of the atrocities alleged and much more.”
signals a ray of hope for the people of the Niger Delta that Shell’s
irresponsible acts which have violated their land and livelihoods
in the last five decades of oil exploration in the region will
not go unaccounted for. It is however sad that justice was achieved
not on Nigerian soil where innocent people of the Niger Delta
have been labeled criminals and vandals but in far away US.”
the Nigerian government should take a cue from the outcome of
the suit and compel Shell to commence immediate cleanup of pollution
of rivers, streams and farms with its obscene profits and account
for other human rights abuses that piled up before and after the
Saro Wiwa incident in 1995.
of the legal campaign against Shell is billed for Shell’s headquarters
in The Hague, Netherlands, where the company faces a legal action
for repeated oil spills, brought by residents of the Niger Delta,
supported by Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Friends of the
message to Shell is that no matter where how far it is headquartered,
the long arms of justice will get there. The subjugation of innocent
people and their environment will never go unnoticed and must
be accounted for. Shell may have ducked the dock this time around,
but it will surely have its day in the dock soon,” Bassey added.
coordinator, Keania Karikpo believes that Shell’s claim of accepting
out of court settlement on compassionate grounds “is a big insult
capable of flaring tempers in an Ogoni where the people are beginning
to enjoy peace in the absence of the corporation. Their stance
shows that this corporation is unrepentant”.
release, 9 June 2009, www.oilwatch.org
The silent genocide of the last uncontacted indigenous groups
government is not only responsible for the open repression of
Amazonian peoples which it is currently carrying out, but also
for the silent genocide of the last uncontacted indigenous groups
still living in isolation within their ancestral territories.
in a recent Survival International report, one such case is happening
with indigenous peoples living along the Envira River in the Peruvian
Province of Ucayali. Illegal loggers have been invading territory
belonging to uncontacted Indians in the south-east of Peru, forcing
them to flee across the border into nearby Brazil, where they
are likely to come into conflict with other, similarly isolated,
Indians already living in Brazil.
are mainly seeking mahogany and cedar. Peru boasts some of the
last commercially-viable mahogany trees anywhere in the world.
According to José Carlos Meirelles, head of the Brazilian
Indian Affairs Department’s post in the area, mahogany exploration
in the headwaters of the Jurua, Purus and Envira (rivers in Peru),
have caused the forced migration of indigenous groups in Peru.
abundant evidence about the presence of these isolated indigenous
groups, Peru’s government has failed to publicly accept that uncontacted
Indians are fleeing from Peru to Brazil. Peru’s president, Alan
Garcia, has even suggested the tribes do not exist.
is that of the Napo-Tigre Indians in the Province of Loreto. Multinational
oil companies are working inside the territories of at least two
uncontacted tribes living between the Napo and Tigre rivers in
One of them,
Perenco (an Anglo-French company), recently revealed its intention
to send hundreds of workers into the region. According to the
company, one oil well has already been drilled.
The area where
Perenco is working is in the middle of a proposed reserve for
the Indians. Perenco’s presence in the region is opposed by indigenous
organisations in Peru which have filed lawsuits against the company.
of the uncontacted tribes living in the area are not clear, but
one is believed to be a sub-group of the Waorani, and another
is known as the ‘Pananujuri’. Perenco denies the tribes exist.
chairman, Francois Perrodo, recently met Peru’s president, Alan
Garcia. Days later, a law was passed declaring Perenco’s work
in the region a “national necessity”.
involved in the Napo-Tigre area are Repsol-YPF, ConocoPhillips,
the Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol, and the Brazilian state
oil company Petrobras.
It is important
to stress that uncontacted tribes face two principal threats to
their survival. By far the greatest is their lack of immunity
to common Western diseases such as influenza, chicken pox, measles,
and a host of respiratory diseases. Even where ‘first contact’
between an isolated tribe and outsiders is carefully managed,
it is common for significant numbers of tribespeople to die in
the months following contact.
encounters are not managed, with medical plans in place, the entire
tribe, or a large proportion of it, can be wiped out. Such catastrophes
have occurred repeatedly in the Amazon, and not just in the distant
past: in 1996, for example, at least half the Murunahua Indians
died after they were contacted by illegal mahogany loggers. The
other key threat is simply violence: in several of the cases outlined
in this report the tribes people face gangs of heavily-armed loggers
who are likely to shoot them on sight.
to acknowledge the existence of these groups and by allowing and
even promoting the entry of loggers and oil companies into their
territories, the Peruvian government is guilty of genocide.
on information from Survival International’s Report “One Year
On. Uncontacted tribes face extinction”, May 29, 2009
AND TREE MONOCULTURES
India: Jatropha plantations destroy the
livelihoods of poor local communities
plans for the establishment of jatropha plantations aimed at the
production of biodiesel are based on the alleged availability
of “barren and degraded” lands in the country. Within government
there is a belief that large areas within forests are wastelands,
including degraded forests, pasture and grazing lands, and under-stocked
forest land that could be used for jatropha plantation.
and local communities contest the criteria of barren and degraded
lands. For instance, many arid and semi-arid ecosystems have been
classified as ‘barren and degraded’, in spite of the fact that
those areas are often inhabited and used by communities, who themselves
do not consider them to be barren nor degraded. When these lands
are categorized as such, this opens them up for jatropha plantations,
or other so-called “land improvements” that the affected community
may strongly oppose.
fulfill their ambitious jatropha plantation targets, state governments
like that of Chhattisgarh virtually let loose the forest development
corporation (FDC) and the forest department (FD) and give them
a free hand to carry on this mission. Both FDC and FD officials
started indiscriminate planting of jatropha saplings on any land,
forest or non-forest, or disputed, that they could lay their hands
on, often forcibly, leading to major rights violations of the
vulnerable forest communities, dalits and tribals, severely curtailing
their rights to livelihood.
the second half of 2007, hundreds of tribal families, living for
generations in the forests of Chhattisgarh, were displaced from
their cultivable land by the forest department and jatropha was
forcibly planted on their lands. “Incidents of such forcible planting
of jatropha by the forest department have happened in at least
five districts of Kawardha, Bilaspur, Korba, Kanker and Rajnandgaon,”
said Pravin Patel of Tribal Welfare Society.
are an indigenous group, spread across the forest regions of Chhattisgarh
and Madhya Pradesh. These tribals live in extreme poverty; grow
some staple food such as kodu, some lentils and paddy where they
have access to cultivable lands. A large number of them engage
in manual work and tend to cattle.
Budhu Ram of Baridih in Bilaspur district, described, “The local
forest officials, usually forest guards and deputy ranger, accompanied
by the Sarpanch (village Panchayat chief) come with a big herd
of cattle, which runs amok over their crops, trampling them down
and destroying them totally. Subsequently, that crop land is forcibly
planted with jatropha”.
is precisely what happened in the Baigatola of Baridih village
on August 7, 2007, when 400 heads of cattle were herded into the
cultivable land of the Baigas, destroying their Kodu crop planted
in June. The whole area was then planted with jatropha saplings.
The Baigas fought back, uprooted the jatropha saplings and filed
a complaint with the local police. But the Baigas, Bhils and dalits
in other villages were not so lucky. Protesting villagers in Belgahona,
Konochara, Mithtu Nawagaon and Kekradihi were beaten up by the
forest guards and arrested by the police. In the process more
than 150 families lost their cultivable land, the only means of
story repeats itself in the forests of Kanker and Bastar districts.
According to Ratneshwar Nath of Parivartan, an NGO working among
the tribals of Kanker and Bastar districts, at least 355 families
of 27 villages were affected and displaced by the forcible planting
of jatropha on their land. “More than seventeen hundred acres
of land cultivated by the tribals for generations, have been taken
away from them for planting jatropha”, Ratneshwar said.
visits and media reports indicate that forcible plantation of
jatropha on the land of tribals and dalits, on village common
lands and grazing lands are rampant in the other districts of
Raipur, Dhamtari, Kabirdham, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Korba, Sarguja
for the sake of feeding cars!
based on a yet to be published report by Souparna Lahiri for Friends
of the Earth International. For more information, please contact
the author of the report: email@example.com
Uganda: BIDCO Oil palm plantation expansion
will further put at risk local communities livelihoods
the largest and fastest growing manufacturer of vegetable oils,
fats, margarine, soaps and protein concentrates in East and Central
Africa is investing in a multi-million dollar oil palm plantation
on Bugala islands in Kalangala. The company counts with investment
partners including Archer Daniels Midlands of America, Wilmar
Group of Malaysia and Josovina of Singapore. Within Uganda’s Vegetable
Oil Development Project (VODP) scheme, the International Fund
for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank granted
a $10m loan to support the plantations and supporting infrastructure,
while the Government will contribute $12m in the form of land,
electricity and roads, and BIDCO will invest $120m (see WRM Bulletin
project was intended to grow 10,000 ha of palm on Bugala Island.
So far nearly all the planned area has been planted. Of the total
project area, 6500 ha were planted under the nucleus estate and
3500 ha by out growers/small holders.
to the project’s proponents it was designed to improve the livelihood
of the people of Uganda and Kalangala in particular, more so on
the nutrition status of the poor and reduction on the national
cost burden of importation of vegetable oils.
this date, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (BIDCO’s subsidiary company)
has already cleared more than 6,500ha of forest and grassland
and replaced most of it with palms that will be ready for processing
the promises made by the government and the company, the oil palm
project has not been able to come up to the promises made. According
to a recent report undertaken by the Kalangala District NGO Forum
(KADINGO), local people are facing serious negative impacts.
establishment of the plantations has had high environmental impacts
starting from deforestation and water depletion; and local people
can no longer obtain a large number of products and services from
the forest environment which disappeared as a result of the plantation.
However, the most serious impact local communities are facing
is the appropriation of their land by the plantation companies.
In Kalangala district, local people do not have formal ownership
of the land. Plantation companies are awarded concessions or land
titles to that land and receive government support to repress
whatever opposition they may face from local communities.
have been eruptions of land wrangles between BIDCO and the community
over who owns land. Some residents cannot precisely tell how their
tomorrow will be simply because the land they are settled on is
being claimed by BIDCO.
with the above, many communities have been displaced from the
areas they were cultivating, and grazing, whereby some of them
have been forced to sell off their animals. Although some landless
people in Bwendero, Buguzi and Mulabana were said to have been
facilitated to acquire land for re-settlement, the displaced communities
in Buswa and Mugela were reportedly either not compensated for
their losses at all or received a totally inadequate compensation.
give-away of public land has affected the local communities who
have been living on those lands and depended on it for their livelihoods.
In addition, the land market boom on the Island has attracted
many rich men to buy off private land. More of the indigenous
and local communities that have for years lived on such land have
either been fenced off or evicted.
local communities living on both private and public land have
lost their livelihood. Even those who have not been affected yet
are worried about their future and cannot make long-term investments
on land. In Mugoye village, more than 100 people are currently
living on a land enclave surrounded by oil palm plantations. Local
people are worried about what will happen if the land “owners”
decide to sell off the land to the Project owners or convert it
to oil palm tree growing under the out-growers scheme.
including natural resources such as forests has been providing
a safety net for victims of social changes, displacement, unemployment,
lost opportunities in the urban areas etc. Its loss has increased
the vulnerability of the communities to such changes/shocks over
which they have no control.
there are many conflicts between the communities and the Project
arising from denied access to:
Use of the project road network for livestock movements/transportation;
- Water points located in the project area formerly used by the
communities; some were destroyed during the clearing of land for
project activities especially the wells in Kibaale;
- Grazing lands within the project area leading to confiscation
of “trespassing” animals with either an exorbitant fine of about
50,000 Shs (Ugandan shillings) per animal, or risk of having the
animals slaughtered and eaten free of charge, which discourages
animal rearing in most areas of the project.
particularly severe problem resulted from the project taking over
sand mining areas and denying the indigenous and local community
access to building materials as in the case of Bukuzzindu. The
area was a community utility where sand for building and construction
was obtained but when the project took over, the indigenous and
local people were denied access to this vital material. The area
was put under oil palm plantation and accommodation structure
for the top staff and workers. The refusal by BIDCO to vacate
the area is creating friction between BIDCO and the community,
to the extent that the community is reacting by digging sand ditches
along the roadside so as to cause accidents to BIDCO’s vehicles.
the company’s race to have more land for plantations, even the
children’s play ground of the community of Kasenyi – Bamungi was
converted into oil palm plantation!
that BIDCO is planning to establish 30,000 more hectares of oil
palm on the mainland, it is important to inform local communities
living in the area targeted for plantations about the negative
impacts of the 10,000 hectares already planted in the islands.
The proposed expansion will not only not improve but will worsen
people’s livelihoods –and the impacted communities of the Buggala
islands in Kalangala can provide more than ample evidence on this.
based on information from: “A study to identify key issues for
engagement about the oil palm project in Ssese islands Kalangala
district: A case study of Buggala and Bunyama island in Kalangala
district” sent by David Mwayafu - a Programme Officer of Uganda
Coalition for Sustainable Development (UCSD), P.O.Box 27551 Kampala
Tel: 256 414 269461 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The full report is available at: Kalangala District NGO Forum
The Ence, Arauco and Stora Enso’s eucalyptus and pulp fairytales
tree plantations continue to advance over the Uruguayan grasslands
and now occupy almost one million hectares of land that was previously
assigned to the production of food. On several occasions we have
made reference to the negative impacts of these monoculture plantations
on the environment and its people and in Bulletin 139 we included
recent evidence given by farmers and their families from the Department
of Paysandu (see: http://www.wrm.org.uy/boletin/139/Uruguay.html
increasing appropriation of land by large companies must be added
to the negative social and environmental impacts of such monoculture
plantations. Today, four foreign companies own almost 600,000
hectares of land -Stora Enso (Sweden-Finland), Arauco (Chile),
Weyerhaeuser (USA) and Botnia (Finland)- making them the largest
landowners in the country.
something hitherto unknown happened, showing up the way these
companies operate: the sale by the Spanish company Ence of almost
all its assets in Uruguay, as a way of addressing its serious
financial problems in Spain. Up until that time, Ence was one
of the county’s largest landowners, with a total of 160,000 hectares
and a government-approved project to install a pulp mill. Its
plantations had been subsidised, it had been exempt from taxes,
it had been given a duty-free zone to install the mill, but it
decided to leave and did so, pocketing all the benefits received
through the sale of its land and plantations.
assets were acquired by an consortium set up by two companies
that up to then had been owners of a total of 110,000 hectares:
the Swedish-Finnish company Stora Enso and the Chilean company
Arauco. This sale –decided on and negotiated among three foreign
companies– led to the establishment of the largest landholding
in the history of the country: 253,000 hectares in the hands of
a foreign consortium.
objective stated by the Arauco/Stora Enso consortium is the installation
of a gigantic pulp mill to be fed with eucalyptus plantations.
This is to be the largest pulp megaproject in the world, as it
implies the installation of a pulp mill able to produce 1.5 million
tons of pulp (today the largest one produces 1 million tons).
Given these dimensions, any accident, human error or mechanical
breakdown would be catastrophic, while the level of emissions
and effluents, however small, would involve an accumulation of
impacts, of equally major dimensions.
companies’ track records do not auger anything positive. Both
companies are responsible for serious social and environmental
impacts in the countries where they have established themselves.
As examples geographically close to our country, mention can be
made of the cases of Stora Enso in Brazil (Veracel) and Arauco
in Chile (CELCO) and Argentina (Alto Paraná).
installation of Stora Enso in the State of Bahía (Brazil)
involved the expansion of monoculture eucalyptus plantations in
the area, resulting in a series of serious social and environmental
impacts. According to the Pataxó indigenous peoples who
live in the area, the company appropriated lands with false deeds,
cut down the native vegetation, poisoned and is still poisoning
water sources with agrochemicals, causing the death of animals
and fish. For their part, the peasants affirm that the company
has only promoted land concentration, monoculture plantations
and the eviction of human beings from the land.
negative impacts caused by the company have been documented in
detail in a report by the local organization CEPEDES (2008). The
title of this report is graphic: “A story of illegality, indifference
and profit! Social and environmental violation promoted by Veracel
Celulose, the property of Stora Enso and Aracruz Celulose) (see
complete report at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/Brasil/CEPEDES_2008.pdf
activities of the Chilean company Arauco in the Province of Misiones
(Argentina) have also involved a series of negative social and
environmental impacts both due to its pulp mill – the largest
in the province – and its pine tree plantations. The local inhabitants
coincide in denouncing strong headaches, allergies and respiratory
diseases as common in the town, located a few kilometres away
from the mill. They tell that there are days (and particularly,
nights) when they can’t breathe and the smell is unbearable. They
also refer to the low salaries paid by the mill and the repressive
system prevailing there.
Chile there are also innumerable complaints against the company
lodged by local communities and mainly by the Mapuche people,
who have been repressed and have had their territory taken over
by the company. Arauco was also responsible for serious contamination
in the Valdivia region, affecting the Rio Cruces sanctuary, a
Ramsar site and the habitat of black-necked swans. Rio Cruces
was one of South America’s most important nesting sites for black-necked
swans and an important source of income from tourism for the local
population. What had started with complaints by the community
affected by the nauseating smell from Arauco’s pulp mill, ended
in the mass death of black-necked swans and the ensuing negative
tourist-related economic impacts in the area.
spite of the well documented impacts of their activities in Chile
and Brazil, these companies will surely affirm that in Uruguay
their pulp mill will not contaminate and that their plantations
have not had, do not have and will never have any negative impacts.
Whoever wants to believe in fairytales .. may of course do so.
But they must know that they are no more than fairytales.
Arborgen Seeks to Legalize GE Eucalyptus Trees
in U.S. -Brazil is Not Far Behind
is the perfect neoliberal tree. It grows quickly, turns a quick
profit in the global market and destroys the earth.”—Jaime Aviles,
the international leader in genetically engineered (GE) tree research
and development, is moving rapidly forward with plans to commercially
release their GE tree “products” in both the U.S. and Brazil.
ArborGen, headquartered in South Carolina in the United States,
has received preliminary approval from the U.S. government to
release more than a quarter of a million GE cold tolerant, low-lignin,
flowering eucalyptus trees in seven states across the southeastern
U.S. This is a major step toward the unregulated commercial release
of large-scale plantations of GE eucalyptus trees. ArborGen has
already started the process of petitioning the government for
permission to commercially develop GE eucalyptus plantations as
soon as 2010. In Brazil ArborGen has stated they plan to commercially
release GE eucalyptus as soon as 2012, but given the state of
the technology in the U.S., it could be even earlier.
of GE eucalyptus would be used for paper pulp, so-called “second
generation” cellulosic transport fuels or wood-fired electricity
production. These cold tolerant GE eucalyptus tree plantations
pose an unprecedented threat to forests both in the U.S. and globally.
The cold tolerance trait will allow development of GE eucalyptus
plantations over a much wider geography than eucalyptus trees
are currently able to grow. In the same way that conventional
eucalyptus have been a social and ecological disaster for the
forests and forest dependent communities in the regions where
eucalyptus plantations currently grow, GE cold tolerant eucalyptus
will threaten communities and forests over greatly expanded regions.
the U.S. southeast, one in five forested acres is made up of monoculture
pine plantations, but the area’s cold winters have made growing
eucalyptus impossible. Eucalyptus may soon replace these pine
plantations, with significant impacts. Eucalyptus trees, for example,
use 2.5 times the water of pine trees and have roots that grow
much deeper than pine trees, threatening ground water sources
in a region already experiencing extreme drought in many areas.
plantations of non-genetically engineered eucalyptus have depleted
the availability of fresh water for communities, forests and other
ecosystems. In the Lumaco District of Chile, for example, some
indigenous Mapuche communities are completely surrounded by eucalyptus
plantations. While they previously had year-round access to fresh
water, today they must truck water in because the eucalyptus plantations
have depleted the local water supply. In addition, the chemicals
used on the eucalyptus plantations have contaminated the ground
water, leading to rising rates of sickness in Mapuche communities.
are also much more flammable than pine plantations. In the spring
of 2007, wildfires in forests and pine plantations of Georgia
and Florida burned for weeks on end. If these had been eucalyptus
plantations, the fires would have been significantly worse. A
dramatic example of the danger of eucalyptus fires was seen in
Australia earlier this year. Raging wildfires, exacerbated by
a drought, moved at over 100 kilometers per hour, devastating
wildlife and killing 173 people.
trees, which are highly invasive, also produce a compound that
inhibits the growth of other plants, enabling the eucalyptus to
form monocultures when it escapes from the plantations. According
to the Introduced Species Summary Project of Columbia University,
“The loss of biodiversity and habitat is a great threat from the
... eucalyptus. It creates virtual monocultures and can rapidly
take over surrounding compatible areas, completely changing the
grandis, one of the species of eucalyptus used in the GE eucalyptus
hybrid, is also a known host for the deadly pathogenic fungus
Cryptococcus gattii. Cryptococcus gattii can cause fatal fungal
meningitis in people and animals that inhale its spores. This
fungus was previously found only in the tropics, but has recently
been found in British Columbia in Canada and in the Pacific Northwest
addition to these dangerous impacts, legalizing GE eucalyptus
trees would open the door to the commercial release of other GE
forest trees, including trees with native wild relatives, such
as poplar and pine, that would inevitably and irreversibly contaminate
native forests with GE traits, devastating forest ecosystems,
wildlife and communities that rely on the forest. Once GE trees
escape, there is no way to call them back. The only way to stop
genetic contamination of native forests is to ban the commercial
release of GE trees before it is too late.
STOP GE Trees Campaign is mobilizing to fight this threat. We
are bringing together experts in genetic engineering, forest protection,
wildfire, soils, water and eucalyptus to develop the campaign
to stop ArborGen’s plans. If you know of experts who can help,
please contact us!
need your help! This will be a lengthy battle —ArborGen has millions
of dollars in profits at stake and will be activating their PR
machine. Please help us stop these deadly GE eucalyptus plantations.
be alerted to updates on this situation and get involved in the
fight to stop GE eucalyptus trees, email us at email@example.com
or visit our website at http://www.nogetrees.org
Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
AND NOT DEEDS AT CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS
gaping chasm between climate science and climate negotiations
distance between climate science and climate negotiations was
dramatically illustrated at the UN climate meeting in Bonn earlier
this month. While scientists tell us we need large reductions
in greenhouse gas emissions, governments are setting targets for
emission reductions that are so low that runaway climate change
is almost guaranteed.
At a side
event organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
scientists gave a series of presentations under the title: “Emissions
in line with staying below 2°C – do current proposals make
it?”. Katje Frieler of the Potsdam Institute noted that more than
100 countries call for a target of limiting global warming to
2°C or lower. “How much emission reductions are necessary
in order to reach this target? ” she asked. The graphs she showed
were scary. Business as usual emissions would result in a temperature
increase of somewhere between 3°C and 8°C by 2100. But
the important figure was 1 trillion tons of CO2. That is the total
amount of emissions we can produce between 2000 and 2050 if the
probability of exceeding 2°C is to be limited to 25 per cent.
The bad news is that we have already emitted one-third of that
in the last nine years.
made things worse. He looked at the targets that countries are
currently setting for emissions reductions. He concluded that
if countries meet the targets that they have currently set, we
are “Virtually certain to exceed 2°C”, with median concentrations
of CO2 of over 700 parts per million by 2100.
of the Potsdam Institute and Climate Analytics summed up the implications
of the findings, which were published in Nature magazine on 30
April 2009. “Less than a quarter of the available and economically
recoverable, fossil fuel reserves can still be burned and emitted
from 2009 to 2050,” he said.
Monbiot has pointed out, “The test of all governments’ commitment
to stopping climate breakdown is this: whether they are prepared
to impose a limit on the use of the reserves [of fossil fuels]
already discovered, and a permanent moratorium on prospecting
for new reserves. Otherwise it’s all hot air.”
in the Potsdam Institute's presentations was not reflected in
the official negotiations in Bonn. None of the government delegations
present in Bonn were talking about imposing any limit on using
fossil fuels. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative
Action under the Convention (AWGLCA) ended up with a 200-page
draft negotiating text, which is almost four times as long as
the draft produced before the meeting. The Ad Hoc Working Group
on the Kyoto Protocol failed to reach any agreement on emission
reduction targets beyond 2012. Hot air, in other words.
to stopping the burning and extraction of fossil fuels, we also
need to stop deforestation. But little progress was made during
the discussions about reducing emissions from deforestation and
forest degradation (REDD) in Bonn. In one informal plenary session
Michael Zammit Cutajar, the chair the AWGLCA, spoke at length
about curly brackets and square brackets. He talked about the
“lack of perfection in the curly brackets” and something he called
At an AWGLCA
meeting on REDD during the second week of the talks, the overwhelming
impression was that someone had dreamed up REDD the previous evening
over a glass or two of Kölsch. For 90 minutes delegates chatted
about REDD as if no previous discussions on REDD had ever happened.
Other AWGLCA discussions were fiendishly complex, featuring discussions
of REDD plus; REDD and NAMAs; REDD and LULUCF; REDD and MRV; REDD
and CBD; REDD and UNDRIPs; REDD and carbon trading; REDD and offsets;
and REDD and carbon accounting. What all this means is not the
point, since there was little or no agreement on any of this.
the official negotiations on REDD are drowning in a soup of acronyms,
organisations such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are steaming
ahead with their own versions of REDD. At a side event in Bonn,
TNC's Sarene Marshall described the Berau REDD Pilot Programme
which covers an area of 2.2 million hectares in East Kalimantan.
Of this area, 780,000 hectares would be logged. This would be
“reduced impact logging / certification”, Marshall's presentation
assured us. The project would then “sell emissions reductions
'credits' to voluntary carbon market buyers.”
two serious problems here. First, the logging will produce large
amounts of emissions. Comparing these emissions with what might
have happened under more destructive logging is fraudulent. A
new Global Witness report, “Vested Interests – industrial logging
and carbon in tropical forests,” documents how reduced impact
logging “kills 5-10 non-target trees for every target tree cut,
and releases between 10 and 80 tonnes of carbon per hectare.”
Logging also makes forests more vulnerable to further deforestation
and to fire. “During the El Niño events in the late 1990s,
60% of logged forests in Indonesian Borneo went up in smoke compared
with 6% of primary forest,” Global Witness notes.
problem is that we need both to reduce emissions from burning
fossil fuel and to stop deforestation, especially industrial scale
logging of old-growth forests. We cannot offset one against the
other. “In practice offsetting is having a disastrous impact on
the prospects for averting catastrophic climate change,” writes
Friends of the Earth in a new report on offsets. “Offsetting must
not be expanded at Copenhagen. New proposed offsetting schemes
must be dropped from the negotiations, and existing offsetting
mechanisms need to be scrapped.”
The most extraordinary
slide in Sarene Marshall's presentation in Bonn about the Berau
project was titled “Berau REDD Phase I Structure”. The slide outlines
money transfers. An arrow with three dollar signs goes from “Funders”
to “Timber Concessions”. A trust fund and a project management
unit are to be established. Under the words “REDD Activities”
are three boxes, labelled: “Timber Concessions”, “Oil Palm” and
“Protection Forests”. Underneath is the word “offsets”. One box
includes the words “Local Government, National Government, Civil
society, etc.” and two others are for “Government” and “Communities”.
None of these seem to have any role in overseeing the money flows,
or anything much else. Marshall's slide shows the political and
financial infrastructure to be established by TNC, a US-based
NGO, which has not, at least as far as I'm aware, been elected
to govern this area of Kalimantan. This is not democracy. This
By Chris Lang,
Global Witness, “Vested interests - Industrial logging and carbon
in tropical forests”. http://bit.ly/F7al4
Friends of the Earth, “Offsetting: A dangerous distraction”. http://bit.ly/3cgNy
GenderCC urges to really stop deforestation,
not promote carbon offsetting
The June 2009
Climate Talks in Bonn served as the scenario where the new push
to include forest preservation within climate change negotiations
On the one
hand, controversial proposals enthusiastically support economic
incentives to protect the forests. On the other hand, strong arguments
are warning about setting market-based mechanisms that would allow
continuing doing “business as usual” instead of really stopping
deforestation which is a major cause of carbon emission.
the global network of women and gender activists, has been fully
involved in the UNFCCC process. In Bonn, the group issued a statement
highlighting that support of the UN climate change negotiations
to “the protection and restoration of forests and supportive ecosystems”
should encompass several dimensions including human rights.
that any measure regarding forest protection must respect and
strengthen “all rights of indigenous and forest dwelling communities
who have so far conserved them with special support to women’s
traditional rights and knowledge systems”. Traditional custodians
must be incorporated “at the centre of decision making and planning
from the ground to the highest levels”.
Consistent with human rights standards is also the need to preserve
and restore forests “for their biodiversity value and for the
livelihood of forest and forest-dependent communities” – forests
provide a home and livelihood for about 300 million people worldwide.
There is the
peril that proposals and projects for reducing emissions from
deforestation and degradation (RED/D) may become market-based
mechanisms that would allow carbon offsetting: “Some of the proposed
REDD schemes and the related biochar initiative would serve to
maintain high-carbon economies by enabling offsetting of high
emissions technologies and economies. The projected ‘saving’ by
REDD would, therefore allow and promote the retention and expansion
of high carbon economies perhaps further offsetting these against
industrial tree plantations. This is not acceptable”, stated GenderCC
who also warned about the fact that “Tree plantations are disguised
as forests under REDD and other CDM, are accessing legal protections
of forests, and are already creating massive human rights violations
and ecosystem damage including exacerbating climate change.”
statement exposed the peril that “large amounts of money being
transferred through REDD schemes” might bring about swift changes
in traditional societies’ production, consumption and cultural
patterns. In a cash-economy “women would be the most excluded,
doing away with their ancestral rights as indigenous women, compromising
their livelihoods and disrupting their knowledge systems”.
strongly urges: “The issue is reduction of emissions”. Offsetting
and carbon trade schemes would just imply to divert it.
declaration is available at