W R M B U L L E T I N 77
********************************************************************** WORLD RAINFOREST MOVEMENT
MOVIMIENTO MUNDIAL POR LOS BOSQUES
International Secretariat Maldonado 1858; Montevideo, Uruguay
Web page: http://www.wrm.org.uy
Editor: Ricardo Carrere ********************************************************************** ================================= W R M B U L L E T I N 77 December 2003 - English edition
This bulletin is also available in French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Please let us know if you wish to receive it in some of these languages. ================================= In this issue:
* OUR VIEWPOINT
- Climate: Back to Basics
* LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS AFRICA
- Cameroon: Forest policy must respect "Pygmy" forest peoples' rights
- Congo, DR: The Inga hydropower project, a betrayal of social promises
- Kenya: Ogiek forest people fight for their rights
- South Africa: Timberrr! As the plantations go on growing, more South Africans are crying out a warning ASIA
- Burma: Behind the glitter of rubies, sapphires and jade
- Indonesia: Flood tragedy in Sumatra on account of road project
- Philippines: Opposition against mining policy
- Thailand: SmartWood suspends FSC certification of two plantations CENTRAL AMERICA
- Honduras: Journalist opposing mining murdered SOUTH AMERICA
- Argentina: One year after the Esquel "NO", a national network against mining is born
- Brazil: Plantar counterattacks after receiving award for worst carbon sink project
- Chile: Mapuche question agreement between forestry companies and environmental NGOs
- Colombia: The uncertifiable plantations of a member of the FSC Board of Directors * GENERAL
- Extractive Industries Review calls for limits of World Bank funding of mining activities - Rivers for Life! The Rasi Salai Declaration ************************************************************ * OUR VIEWPOINT ************************************************************ - Climate: Back to Basics Since 1992, the world has had a Convention on Climate Change. The signing and ratification of this convention implies obligations, both legal and moral. Most governments have already ratified it. However, after all these years, governments have little to show except for tons of paper resulting from endless negotiations. The 9th Conference of the Parties (COP) recently ended in Milan, again without enough signatures being found to put the 1997 Kyoto Protocol into force. After six years, the Protocol, designed to curb industrialized countries' greenhouse emissions, still awaits the signatures of the United States, the world's main polluter, and Russia. Where does this leave us? Can nothing serious be done until these rogue states sign on? And must all campaigning efforts be centred on getting them to do so?
Surely it is time to start looking beyond and outside the Kyoto Protocol. Everyone knows that the world needs much more than this diluted treaty anyway -a treaty which would hardly cut emissions at all and which authorizes bogus "solutions" such as carbon sink tree plantations which would increase environmental problems without solving the issue of climate change itself. We believe it is time for both civil society organizations and governments to learn the lessons of 11 years of virtual inaction and to move away from prevailing official approaches to climate change. There is a need to re-read the original Convention on Climate Change and begin to comply with it. To go back to basics to ensure that humanity has a future. The carbon-trading game must be set aside until real climate action has begun. There remains a need for a legally-binding instrument to ensure that climate-related obligations are complied with. But many other things can be done now in all countries of the world to address climate change, while at the same time improving the livelihoods of local communities.
It must first be acknowledged that development is not synonymous with growth and that even growth is not synonymous with an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. We must all realize that the Northern development path leads to social and environmental disaster, including climate change. The South should not embrace that path, instead looking at alternative ways of achieving social welfare and environmental care. Such an approach could imply massive reductions in projected carbon emissions, currently calculated on the basis of the prevailing development paradigm. Deforestation is not only unnecessary; it is a tragedy for forest and forest-dependent peoples. It is to the benefit of the South to conserve and restore its forests, which are currently being destroyed to serve the interests of national and transnational elites. Curbing deforestation would greatly benefit the climate -avoiding the release of the carbon stored in forests- while at the same time benefiting local communities. This can be achieved through national policies, ranging from land reform to recognition of indigenous peoples' territorial rights.
Oil, coal and gas exploitation in the tropics have resulted in widespread social and environmental impacts without bringing promised prosperity to the countries where fossil fuels are extracted. The carbon stored in hydrocarbons is the major source of greenhouse gases. A moratorium on new oil exploration would be a good first step toward avoiding climate change. If a small country like Costa Rica has been able to ban oil exploitation, other nations can, too. Clean, renewable and low-impact energy -particularly in industry and transport- would meanwhile be welcomed by millions of people living in the highly-polluted cities of the South.
The North, of course, has the obligation -and the ability- to do much more, given that its past and present material wealth has been based on abuse of the Earth's peoples and resources, including the abuse of the atmosphere that lies at the root of the climate change problem. Among many other things, the North must use its financial, technological and scientific resources to move its own societies from a fossil fuel-dependent energy matrix to one based on clean, renewable and low-impact energy sources. The resources are there; what's needed is the political will that could be ensured through greater civil society involvement. The forces preventing this change are huge, with the oil industry at the forefront, and an equally strong opposition is needed to make things change in the necessary direction.
The above are only a few examples of the many things that could and should be done. People should begin to ask their governments why the necessary actions are not being taken. Why are we still living in 1992, when the issue was formally raised and action agreed upon? Why are governments still playing with our and our children's future? It is necessary to repeat the words of a well-known Indian religious leader, who asked government delegates during the previous Conference of the Parties held in New Delhi: "Whom do you think you are cheating? You are cheating your children; you are cheating your grandchildren." ************************************************************ * LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS ************************************************************ AFRICA - Cameroon: Forest policy must respect "Pygmy" forest peoples' rights
With a population generally estimated to number about 100,000 persons in Cameroon, "pygmies" constitute the best known and the most vulnerable of Africa's forest peoples. Their lifestyle is closely linked to the forest, from which they obtain their food (meat, fruits, honey, roots, etc.) and the traditional medicinal products for which they are known to be great experts. The forest is their natural habitat in which they continue, for the most part, to be nomadic.
Cameroon's 1993 Forestry Policy and the 1994 Forestry Law and its implementation instruments have implied a negation of the customary rights of natives. Cameroon has a system of double legal standards, with a statute law of colonial origin, presented as "modern", which coexists with a multitude of unwritten laws referred to as "customary", of a pre-colonial origin. By virtue of the implementation of the notion of "no man's land", which was unknown in the customary laws of forest-dwelling people, the State claimed all the land on which individuals were incapable of showing proof of ownership in accordance with modern law (i.e. land titles). The granting of concessions is the preserve of the forestry administration, and the procedure ignores all the marginal communities. The determination of surface areas open to exploitation takes into consideration neither the hunting areas nor the migration zones of "pygmies". Only economic profitability criteria are considered when determining production forests, thus ignoring any social consideration.
Industrial-scale timber exploitation has a negative effect on the "pygmy" populations, both directly through the destruction of forest resources on which they rely, and indirectly by creating access to the forest for poachers who may carry out game collection on a massive scale. By so doing, they contribute to growing scarcity of wildlife resources, which directly impact on the diet and therefore quality of life of "pygmies". Many species of high commercial value as timber, such as moabi and bubinga, also have an economic and cultural importance to "pygmy" communities. Felling of such species by logging companies contributes in altering the foundations of "pygmy" life, and contributes to the destruction of their culture.
Since the enactment of the forestry law on 20th January 1994, village communities living on or around State land have had the right to obtain community forests. As defined in the law, a community forest is a piece of State forest land, free from any forest exploitation license, and having a surface area of at most 5,000 hectares, on which the State retains ownership of the land, but entrusts the management of the forest resources to the village community concerned for 25 years, on a renewable basis. Under the existing provisions, "pygmy" communities would find it very difficult to obtain a community forest. One of the prerequisites for obtaining a community forest is the legalisation of an institution representing "the community".
Generally, "pygmy" communities do not have the level of formal education or social organisation needed to enable them to fulfil this requirement. The community forest may be designated only in areas where the community enjoys customary land rights. Generally, "pygmies" who have been re-settled along forest roads and tracks do not enjoy any customary land rights, as such rights are reserved to the Bantus who "host" them. The law does not provide for the designation of community forests in the "Permanent Forest", where pygmies mostly enjoy "customary rights". The maximum surface area of community forests and community hunting areas (5,000 hectares) is not adapted to "pygmies", whose hunting and gathering way of life generally extends over a much greater surface area.
"Pygmy" communities are an important and integral part of the cultural and human heritage of the Congo Basin. In Cameroon, "pygmy" customary rights concerning the management of space and resources are among those that have been sacrificed in the name of modernism, through the imposition of modern over customary law. The frailty of "pygmy" communities' existence, compounded by their strong dependence on an intact forest ecosystem, should have justified special attention by the law in their favour.
Urgent and vigorous measures need to be taken in order to ensure that forest exploitation and conservation policies are not detrimental to the pygmies of the Congo basin:
1. There is a need for recognition within Cameroon's forest zoning plan of "pygmies'" customary land rights, including in concessions and protected areas. In protected areas, "pygmy" communities should be involved in law enforcement and other monitoring operations, in collaboration with the administration;
2. The logging of species with high cultural, therapeutic or nutritional value for forest dependent peoples should be prohibited;
3. The government should increase sanctions against illegal loggers;
4. The regulations concerning community forestry should be adapted to take account of the particular context of "pygmy" communities;
5. Definitions of acceptable user rights should be adapted to encompass pygmy modes of production, in order to enable them earn their living legally through the sale of traditionally gathered products in the forest.
Excerpted from: "Forest Management Transparency, Governance and the Law. Case studies from the Congo Basin", edited by Centre for Environment and Development (CED), Cameroon; Rainforest Foundation, UK; and Forests Monitor, UK; October 2003, at http://www.africa-environment.org/gendoc/Case_studies.pdf ************************************************************ - Congo, DR: The Inga hydropower project, a betrayal of social promises
In a continent still ravaged by more than 20 armed conflicts backed by foreign interests and financed through pillage of the continent's natural resources --oil, diamonds, gold, timber, copper, cobalt and coltan--, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, comes as a question mark for some. For others it is a "Marshall Plan" for Africa, expressing the imposition of capitalist neoliberalism: privatization, trade liberalization, export-led (de)-industrialization, structural adjustment programmes, encouraging Africans to pay unpayable debts, conservative fiscal and monetary policies and, indeed, the entire menu of the international financial institutions.
At the beginning of June 2003, in the presence of Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Abdellaziz Bouteflika (Algeria) and Hosni Moubarak (Egypt), the world's eight most industrialized countries (G-8) renewed their support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Within that framework, the Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been portrayed as a key for NEPAD's future success. Tender bids for the rehabilitation of the Inga I (350 MW) and Inga II (1,424 MW) dams will take place in mid-2004, with a total cost estimated at $500 million. Most of the money --$400 million-- will come from the World Bank, which has been highly active on Congo's electricity front.
The Congolese authorities had earmarked $80 million for the first phase of the Inga dam rehabilitation program. Several groups are struggling to get a good position for the Inga contract, among which South Africa's Eskom and Germany's Siemens. Inga's next stage, Inga III (between 1,700 and 3,500 MW with an estimated cost of US $4 billion) and the "Great Inga Final Stage" (39,000 MW), are also being piloted by the World Bank, plus the EDF Group (France), and Lahmeyer(Germany). The building of a 3,500 megawatt Inga III hydropower station will be carried out by five Southern African Development Community (SADC) members to supply the Westcor Power Project --formed by South Africa's Eskom, the Botswana Power Corporation, Angola's Empresa Nacional de Electricidade (ENE), NamPower of Namibia and Societe Nationale d'Electricite (SNEL) of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Great Inga, at Inga Falls on the River Congo, where the river drops 100 metres, has a potential output of some 39,000 megawatts with an estimated cost of US$ 6 billion. That's three times as much as any existing hydroelectric dam and more than twice that of China's controversial Three Gorges scheme. Supporters would say that because the river runs strongly all year, no large dams will be needed. Even though the power may be generated through "run-of-river" works at Inga Falls, one big unknown is the effect on fisheries and river ecology. Even run-of-river plants can eliminate fish migrations, and they can badly damage silt flows, which are crucial to river ecology.
The plan to build the world's largest hydroelectric project on the Congo river which will have the capacity of supplying the current electricity demands of the entire continent is challenged by groups from the civil society. They allege that the social promises made at the World Summit in Johannesburg have been betrayed. Connecting Inga to a continent-wide electricity grid for main population centres would cost more than $10 billion. But power grids will not reach the hundreds of millions of Africa's rural poor. Besides, most African economies are based on subsistence and commercial activities involving small and micro enterprises with structural features that are often overlooked by policy makers.
The Inga project departs from the goal of small-scale sustainable energy projects discussed at the World Summit, where the talk was of bringing electricity to rural people through local wind and solar power projects. Megaprojects like this more than often imply social, economic and environmental disruption of people's livelihoods, lands and life.
Article based on information from: "Bidding Round for Inga in 2004",November 12, 2003; New Plant to Bring Regional Power On Stream, November 14, 2003, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks , sent by Ryan Hoover, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , Africa Program, International Rivers Network, www.irn.org ; "Giant Congo hydroelectric project is a 'betrayal'", by Fred Pearce, New Scientist, http://www.odiousdebts.org/odiousdebts/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=5707 ; "Impact potential of NEPAD, the new partnership for Africa's development, Ako Amadi, http://www.cbnrm.uwc.ac.za/paplrr/docs/Nairobi%20PAPLRR%20NEPAD%20Paper%20-%20Ako.pdf ; "Africa: `Nepad? No thanks', say African activists", Patrick Bond , http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2002/497/497p14.htm ; and contributions from Fred Pearce, e-mail: PEARCEFRED@compuserve.com ************************************************************ - Kenya: Ogiek forest people fight for their rights While Kenyans celebrate their forty years of independence, the Ogiek remember the forty years of dispossession and institutional marginalisation.
They have suffered systematic oppression, suppression and brutality through a policy of assimilation leading to extinction. The over 290,000 hectares Mau forest complex represents the largest remaining continuous block of mountain indigenous forest in East Africa. The Ogiek people have occupied this forest from time immemorial and are among the only remaining forest dwelling communities in Kenya. They number about 15,000 people, live in groups and clans, speak the Ogiek language, practice selective hunting and perform traditional agriculture within the system of land tenure common to the forest dwelling communities (tree tenure, animal tenure and land tenure). The Ogiek hold their land collectively while individual community members and families enjoy subsidiary rights of use and occupancy.
These traditional lands are neither demarcated nor otherwise specifically recognized by the Kenyan laws. The long history of resistance and struggle of the Ogiek has sustained their unity, identity and cultural distinction. On the contrary, the excision of large chunks of land --the Mau forest provide 70-80% of the total forest area that is intended for excision-- by the Moi regime and the settlement of squatters have threatened their very existence as a distinct people more than ever before. By threatening sacred sites and the habitat within which the community engage in hunting, gathering and other pastoral activities and farming, the logging concessions and the temporarily stopped settlement scheme, not only threaten the integral aspects of the Ogiek community's existence, continuity and culture but it also seeks to kill community's hope of passing on their identity and land to its children. The Ogiek have helped Kenyans by voicing the official injustices meted against them and their environment by the former regime.
Now, that the new National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) Government will formulate a new forest policy, co-ownership and management of their natural resources is a must. Thus, they call upon the government to put in place mechanisms that will see the Indigenous minority forest dwellers enjoying their natural habitats and not to be punished as a results of government policies.
1) Access to resources, development and benefits sharing from their territory as that enjoyed by farmers, pastoralists and fishermen.
2) Official recognition of their lands and protection from activities which are, in environmental terms, unacceptable or actually unsuitable.
3) Put in place criteria and indicators for sustainable forest development that meets the spiritual, cultural and social well-being of the Ogiek and their brothers the Sengwer, Yiaku, Morti, IIK, Chepkitale etc, all who are forest dependant people.
4) Foster the development of sustainable development strategies by the forest dwellers at the National and Local levels.
5) Accept their own concept of protected areas and conservation, based upon their customary laws, traditional knowledge and profound connection with their lands, territories and resources.
6) The settlement scheme sanctioned by the office of the President invaded their private lives, thus blanketing their rights would be inconsistent with the Ogiek demands.
The Ogiek call upon the Presidential Commission of illegal and irregular allocation of public lands to recommend for the revocation and nullification of the forest excision in question.
Article based on information from: "Mau Forest Complex on the spotlight. Kenyan's must be told the truth", Ogiek Welfare Council http://www.ogiek.org/indepth/news-spotlight.htm , sent by ECOTERRA International, Nairobi Node, e-mail: email@example.com ************************************************************ - South Africa: Timberrr! As the plantations go on growing, more South Africans are crying out a warning
A wide range of stakeholders from environment and community groups, research bodies and decision-makers from government and industry came together in Nelspruit, South Africa in mid-November to discuss a burning issue - the impact of timber plantations. The conference, on Timber Plantations: Impacts, Future Visions and Global Trends was hosted by GEASPHERE in coalition with TimberWatch S.A. on 13 and 14 November. It gave a chance for the growing number of environmentalists and stakeholders to vent their mounting concern, and to allow them to interact with representatives from government and the industry, to discuss issues, and search for common ground to develop a future "forest" vision. They are afraid of the continuing impact of what one local landowner described as: "billions of rows of thirsty pine, gum and wattle masquerading as 'forests' which cast a sterile blanket over huge areas of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal and elsewhere, to produce pulp, planks and poles for the profit of shareholders. The negatives outweigh the benefits."
One keynote speaker was Professor Braam van Wyk of the University of Pretoria, on the threats to a most precious resource - "Southern African Grasslands: Aspects of their Biodiversity, Dynamics and Management". He pointed out that in traditional timber-producing countries, plantations are used to produce timber trees through modifying a natural resource, where boreal forests in the northern hemisphere are either selectively used or "clear cut" and replanted with species very much native to that part of the world. But in Southern Africa, he said, we destroy a natural resource before we establish another resource - which must then be artificially maintained. "What are we destroying?" he asked. "Is the destruction worth what we replace it with?"
Grasslands - that's a misnomer, said the professor - because most of the flora consists of non-grassy herbs, shrubs and wild flowers, with grass making up a mere 11 per cent of the plant diversity in some grasslands, notably in the North Eastern Mountain Sourveld, where most heavy "afforestation" has occurred. The grassland biome is home to around 4,000 plant species (compared to a country like Sweden with 1,700 plant species) thus providing a very valuable genetic resource. Also, plants create habitat - a place to live - for other species. Many animals endemic to the grassland biome are severely threatened by their habitat being destroyed. Amphibians in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands have been severely affected - some species may even be extinct - due to excessive destruction of the grassland. An essential component of grassland management is fire, known as the "life blood" of the grassland. "You take away the fire - you destroy the grassland".
Obviously, management of industrial timber plantation compartments excludes this vital regenerator, so the grassland destruction is total. Grassland destruction by ploughing or establishing timber plantations is considered irreversible, because grassland, as a culmination of millions of years of different vegetation types superimposed on each other, is impossible to recreate. Eucalyptus, wattle and pine trees are notorious for the "hydrophobic" quality they induce in the soils. A waxy layer coats the sand grains and impairs water penetration. This effect is worsened by fire. Grassland however, provides for increased water retention and helps to prevent flooding. Most grassland studies have focused on grass species which are important to livestock production, so "we know essentially nothing about the precious grassland biome," said Van Wyk. "Should we continue to destroy it?"
In his travels through rural areas he sees row upon row of eucalyptus and pine monocultures - newly established - in the primary grasslands. This is a problem the forestry industry must admit, he says, and it must dialogue with all affected parties to find a solution. He called for the launching of a National Grassland Day, to generate grassland awareness and appreciation. David Lindley from the Mondi Wetland Project spoke of wetland management within the forestry industry. He produced a document stating that the Mondi Timber Company is committed to removing all trees planted in wetlands and riparian zones by the year 2010.
Researcher Dirk Versfeld outlined a programme for the timber industry to convert gradually to indigenous hardwood timber species or "slow wood", which is a long term investment with a high value. He is co-author with Mike Warren of "Indigenous Forestry Alternatives for Rural Development". (For a copy of this document please mail firstname.lastname@example.org )
Nhlanhla Msweli from Swaziland Campaign against Poverty and Economic Inequality (SCAPEI) spoke about the impact of timber plantations on the rural people of Swaziland, where huge areas of the grasslands have disappeared beneath monoculture timber, denying people a choice of livelihood. In a timber plantation cattle cannot be grazed, food cannot be grown, and animals cannot be hunted. People who have lived sustainably, using the natural environment as subsistence farmers, have been removed from their land and displaced to the mountains where they cannot continue their lifestyle. Msweli spoke of low wages and job retrenchments in the forestry industry, coupled to water and air pollution in the vicinity of the paper mills. He bemoaned the fact that large multinational corporations continue to annex and exploit the land to the benefit of multinational shareholders, and to the disadvantage of the people of the land.
George Dor from the Jubilee S.A. movement spoke on "Ecological Debt: Reparations for Damage by Industry, Mining, Large Dams and Forestry". He pointed out that the huge debts which many developing countries struggle to pay back to institutions like the World Bank and the IMF have often been incurred to finance projects which had little significant benefits to the people of the borrowing country, and now lay a burden on development. New loans have to be taken out to finance old debt, and these come with conditions benefiting the corporations of lending countries.
Activities in South Africa such as mining, building large dams, establishing industrial timber plantations and developing tourism directly benefit corporations from northern countries, often at the expense of the people and environment of the South. "Ecological debt" is what the countries of the north owe those of the south for ecological destruction - similarly huge corporations "owe" the affected people a debt. Dor noted that social and environmental movements work in isolation from each other - they should be networking much closer around common issues.
Maria Rydlund from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) came specially from Sweden for the conference, and gave an international perspective. She outlined how monoculture timber plantations impact on many developing countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Brazil. Most timber produced in the southern hemisphere supplies consumers in the north. Forest people in the south are displaced to make way for privately-owned monoculture timber plantations from which they derive little real benefit. They are no longer forests - they have much more in common with an agricultural monocrop.
Human Rights lawyer Richard Spoor explained how the legal framework allows corporations to externalize costs. The legal system is inherited from the Romans of 2000 years ago, when there was an abundance of water, soils and wildlife. By exercising their "legal rights" to own property and profit, people could destroy the natural environment with nothing to fear from the law. This attitude persists to today, where people affected by big business "exercising its right to own and profit" have no recourse to the law to receive compensation for their losses. Spoor argued that the true costs of the timber industry are not taken into account. When the water dries up on a farm downstream from a big timber plantation the cost to the farmer should be borne by the timber industry. The impact of pollution from pulp mills on farmers and other downstream users needs to be quantified. Peoples displaced from the land and losing their livelihoods should be compensated. If all these hidden costs are quantified the timber industry would be shown up as much less of a corporate profit-maker.
Spoor called for much more environmental, social and legal activism, aiming to make people more aware of how big industries impact on our natural and social environment - and the real costs to society. Wally Menne from the TimberWatch coalition gave feedback from the recent World Forestry Congress, and he spoke about the vast differences between forests and plantations. He spoke of the physical impacts of plantation management on local forest systems, such as biodiversity loss, erosion due to timber extraction, and heavy impact on water supply. Plantations have been called "thieves" of water, as they consume more water than is actually delivered through rainfall, said Menne.
Morne Lizamore from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) delivered a presentation outlining the regulations the forestry industry is bound by, and the processes involved in obtaining licenses to establish timber plantations. South African legislation allows for broad public participation, he said, and more people should feel empowered to be part of the process and make informed interventions about developments which will impact on their environment. The industry was represented by Mike Edwards, Chief Director of Forestry South Africa. He said that due to increased demand the industry needs to establish another 250,000 hectares of industrial eucalyptus monocultures to supply the growing demand for pulp, but that the main obstacle to this growth would be availability of water and soils.
Also, the industry would lose a significant amount of trees through removing them from wetlands, riparian zones and illegally planted areas to comply with legislation and certification regulations. He mentioned that the industry would make increasing use of "out-growing" schemes to obtain raw material. Edwards committed the industry to sustainable management and transparency, thanking the organisers for the opportunity to contribute to the event. Linda Mossop, the government's Chief Director of Forestry in DWAF, shared the platform with Mike Edwards and strongly sided with the industry, using the opportunity to publicly thank the industry for their assistance, specially with the government's "afforestation" program in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, by which the government aim to "open the industry" to more players. She also welcomed the opportunity for dialogue, and proposed more workshop events to focus on specific plantation impacts.
During discussions after the presentations, some stakeholders said they are uncomfortable with the way government embraces the "forestry" industry. They feel strongly that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry should act as more of a regulator and less of a promoter of timber plantation activity in South Africa. On the second day participants traveled by bus through the north eastern mountain sourveld where extensive eucalyptus and pine plantations cover huge tracts of the Mpumalanga uplands. Several practical problems were pointed out, such as trees planted contrary to the law in wetland areas and riparian zones. The tour took in the thousands of hectares of plantation recently destroyed in one of the biggest ever fires, which caused massive losses to the industry and severe damage to the soils.
By: Philip Owen, Geasphere, e-mail: email@example.com. (A document containing presentations and minutes of proceedings on 13 November is available on request to firstname.lastname@example.org) ************************************************************ ASIA - Burma: Behind the glitter of rubies, sapphires and jade
Burma is famous for its rich deposits of gemstones which include rubies, sapphires, and jade. The town of Mogok, which is located in the eastern corner of Mandalay Division along the Shan State border, has been the centre for ruby and sapphire mining for eight-hundred years. The mining enterprises operating in Mogok were first taken over by British interests in 1888. They were later nationalized in 1962 following the military coup headed by General Ne Win. Until comparatively recently, however, these enterprises were relatively small-scale and caused limited damage to the surrounding environment. Since 1989, there has been a major shift towards large-scale mining operations which has transformed the industry. The rapid rise of non-local actors, capital, and equipment have also accelerated the ecological devastation of the region.
Between 1989-1992, modern mining equipment caused extensive damage, especially around Mogok and Mineshu. In the process, local businessmen have been displaced by increased competition and corruption. They now find themselves working as poorly paid laborers for outside business interests. Another effect has been the gradual migration of workers and small businessmen from Mogok to mining areas in Shwe Gin, Pegu Division. In the process, many local Karen miners and farmers have experienced the same social, economic, and environmental problems that prompted these entrepreneurs to leave Mogok in the first place.
The expansion of intensive forms of resource extraction is, in most cases, unsustainable. Mining activities are occurring in a context where there is no regulatory oversight. People working in mines during the rainy season regularly risk drowning from flash floods or the collapse of retaining walls. Workers who sort gems after they are removed from the ground must do so under the hot sun since much of the surrounding area has been clear-cut and is devoid of shade. Workers have also reported that breaks are rarely allowed and that they regularly face verbal and physical abuse from the soldiers who provide on-site security for the companies. More recently gravity-fed, multi-level sluices with screens have been used.
But with the arrival of the outside business interests, miners have begun using hydraulic gold mining. This highly destructive method uses diesel-powered pumps to force jets of pressurized water through a hose which is then aimed at a river bank or the side of a rocky outcropping. Under such pressure, large amounts of rock and earth are simply washed away. The gold-bearing sediments are then channeled through a large sluice which is typically lined with liquid mercury (quicksilver). The mercury captures the finer particles of gold through a chemical process known as amalgamation and they are later separated. The remaining mix of debris and polluted muds are washed downstream. Since mercury is highly poisonous to people and animals, the practice has been banned in many places around the world.
Currently, it is unknown whether these chemicals are being used in these two locations, although it is widely used elsewhere in Burma for gold mining, having caused severe environmental damage. Local sources report that mining activities, especially the use of hydraulic mining, around Mogok and Shwe Gin Township have led to a common pattern of problems, including:
* The collapse of river beds due to the removal of silt and soils from banks of the river, the base of trees and walls
* Increased levels of soil erosion
* Increased levels of sediment
* Reduced fish stocks due to changes in water temperature
* Increased water pollution from mining tailings (i.e. the finely ground up materials left after the desired ore or mineral is removed)
* Increased water pollution from "slurry" or acid mine drainage (i.e. the mixture of tailings, water, and chemicals, usually cyanide or mercury)
* Increased water pollution due to diesel fuels and oils leaking from the pumps and other mining equipment
* The loss of ponds and other freshwater sources, such as small creeks, from over-pumping
* The destruction of arable fields due to "deep trenching" and indiscriminate use of heavy equipment (e.g. bulldozers and heavy equipment)
* Increased use of timber to construct sluices and reinforce underground tunnels * Increased used of non-timber forest products (e.g. bamboo and rattan).
Given Burma's political and economic reality, most people have little possibilities of opposing these mining activities. Simply, people in these parts of Burma are caught between powerful military and business interests. With few alternatives left, many communities are forced to participate in the unsustainable exploitation of their own local natural resources, even though they know they are destroying the very ecosystems they need for their own survival.
Excerpts from: "Capitalizing on Conflict. How Logging and Mining Contribute to Environmental Destruction in Burma", by Earth Rights International with Karen Environmental & Social Action Network, October 2003. The full report can be downloaded from http://m1e.net/c?11841838-pSMLVzXzp5lzM%40347152-DvtuggLI338vc ************************************************************ - Indonesia: Flood tragedy in Sumatra on account of road project
With more than a year into its construction, the controversial US$1.2 million Ladia Galaska road network project will link the west coast of Aceh with the eastern coast of northern Sumatra. Over 90 kilometers out of the planned 505-kilometer-long road cuts through the relatively pristine forest of the central highlands at the Leuser national park, and this would have notorious permanent negative impacts on the environment. The debate around the project reignited when a huge flash flood on November 2, in Mount Leuser National Park, nearby North Sumatra province, took a toll of more than 150 dead and scores missing.
The government in Jakarta blamed illegal loggers for the flood. However, an investigation by the European Union-funded Leuser Management Unit has concluded that the floods were a result of landslides in the northern part of the park, which blocked the Bohorok River, causing it to finally burst, creating a flash flood. Critics of the road project charge it for the tragedy on the grounds that it has disrupted the Leuser park environment and is setting the stage for an even greater environmental disaster. There is also a feel that the Ladia Galaska project will accelerate the destruction of the last significant area of tropical forest on the island of Sumatra.
The Indonesian Forum on Environment (Walhi) is pursuing a lawsuit against Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh in relation to the construction of the highway and wants the project to be stopped. Yarrow Robertson, director of the Leuser Management Unit, has been studying the Leuser ecosystem for more than 20 years. He says a road planned through the national park to Bohorok, the site of the recent flood, as part of the Ladia Galaska project, would bring other problems too. It would speed up erosion on mountain slopes and cross more than 1,000 rivers and streams, he argues. Below it would lie 580 villages potentially facing landslides and other flooding catastrophes as a result. According to Robertson: "floods and landslides in Aceh and northern Sumatra will be 100 times worse if the Ladia Galaska highway is built". He pointed out that since 1,000 rivers flow through the Leuser ecosystem, they are likely to flood annually, and if each time they killed 10 people, then 10,000 could die.
It may be wise to see through the alleged reasons for the works. The government of Aceh argues that the highway is needed to improve the economy of its isolated central highlands, which is connected to the rest of the province by one badly maintained road. However, environmentalists suggests that the highway, which failed an environmental impact assessment, could easily be replaced by a railway, which would not cause as much environmental damage by encroachment on the forest. Indeed, it appears that the road would benefit only few people, while water from the Leuser ecosystem sustains more than two million farmers. Undoubtedly, logging activities will be enabled through easy access to the forest. There are also accusations that the government has backed the road because it will be a goldmine for local officials who can hand out building contracts to logging companies and a bonus to local mayors who approve logging permits. Also, several oil palm plantations adjacent to the projected route will benefit from the highway.
Government officials are still divided over the issue. While Forestry Minister M. Prakosa and State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim have expressed opposition to the project, Minister of Settlement and Infrastructure Soenarno appears to be supportive, claiming that the road project would not increase illegal logging. If the project were to be completed, the main beneficiaries would be a handful of people with power. At the receiving end, local peoples and their environment would have to bear the negative consequences: floods, landslides, forest, biodiversity and livelihood loss. There is still time to avoid this happening.
Article based on information from: "Road to Ruin", Marianne Kearney, South China Morning Post, November 12, 2003; "Sumatra floods put spotlight on logging and road building", Shawn Donnan and Taufan Hidayat, November 24, 2003; "Government told to reconsider road project in Leuser park", Apriadi Gunawan and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, November 12, 2003; sent by Watch Indonesia!, e-mail: email@example.com, Website: http://home.snafu.de/watchin/Index-engl.htm ; "Walhi pushes Ladia Galaksor suit for environmental damage", Nani Farida, The Jakarta Post, November 18, 2003, http://www.ecologyasia.com/NewsArchives/nov2003/thejakartapost.com_20031118_1.htm. ************************************************************ - Philippines: Opposition against mining policy
It is estimated that already 40% of the Philippines territory has been given away under the form of concessions to multinational mining companies. However, this process has not happened without opposition. From the Cordillera region in northern Philippines to the South Eastern region of the Palawan Island, the Subanen, Tagbunau, Pala'wan, Tau't bato and Batak indigenous groups (see WRM bulletins Nº 11, 28, 67) have struggled to defend their territories from the pervasive impacts of mining. This year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo started a policy of promotion of mining in the country. Within that framework, a national process of consultations was initiated in February in cooperation with the USAID, which has faced strong opposition from several civil society groups gathered in the National Mining Conference (NMC). They have staged a nationwide "fax barrage" on December 3, to express unified opposition to the National Minerals Policy (NMP) Framework and the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
As they put it, their opposition is based on the following grounds:
"a. The law is based on an export-oriented economic framework, a policy which remains as a key factor in driving the country's economy to bankruptcy.
b. The law has opened our mineral wealth to full exploitation by foreign investors, thus surrendering our national patrimony and sovereignty to corporate entities who have the control of capital and technical know-how.
c. The law is not based on Philippine realities. We are an archipelago with fragile ecosystems and the areas where minerals are located are inhabited mainly by indigenous peoples.
d. The law does not guarantee the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to their territories and their right of self-determination.
e. The law further distorts the development of our economy which could be achieved primarily by strengthening agriculture and undertaking national industrialization instead of just attracting foreign investments for extractive industries like mining."
In this light, they present the following demands: "
1. Cancel all mining permits already issued and to declare a moratorium on large scale mining activities.
2. Formulate a new National Minerals Policy which respects the integrity of the Creation, truly adheres to the principles of sustainable development, clearly defines the role of the mining industry in strengthening the country's economy based on supporting agricultural development and national industrialization, ensure that it respects basic human rights and strengthens democratic processes.
3. Legislate a new mining code based on this new National Minerals Policy.
4. For the MGB [Mines and Geosciences Bureau] improve on their practice of democratic processes: to go through a very thorough process of consultations to ensure that those who have been and will be affected by mining operations are fully consulted, allow the expression of people's sentiments and demands; and that results of consultation be disseminated for comments. We also seek the formation of an inter-sectoral body that will study the impact of mining policies.
5. Recognize and respect indigenous peoples right to land and to self-determination. This should not be diminished when securing permission to access indigenous peoples territories to implement development projects such as mining.
6. For the resolution of outstanding issues of mining-affected communities, (i.e. the clean up of Mogpog and Boac Rivers, conflict between the Subanon peoples in Siocon and TVI, the rights of small scale miners in Diwalwal, Lepanto's pollution of the Abra river, the rehabilitation of open pit mining areas of Benguet Corporation, the cry of the people of Didipio for a people's initiative, the protest of the people against Western Mining Corporation etc.) instead of rushing the approval of a clearly pro-mines industry National Minerals Policy.
7. Conduct a social and environmental impact assessment of almost 8 years of implementation of RA [Republic Act] 7942 and its IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations]."
They claim: "Let the voices of the people be heard. The strength of a government can only be ensured if it responds to the basic aspirations and demands of the majority who still remain marginalized and oppressed."
Article based on information from: "Urgent Action - 'fax barrage' on Philippines' National Minerals Policy process", 3rd December 2003, http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/action50.htm ; ************************************************************ - Thailand: SmartWood suspends FSC certification of two plantations
On 1 December 2003, SmartWood suspended the Forest Stewardship Council certification of two of Forest Industry Organisation's teak plantations. SmartWood is accredited by FSC to assess whether forestry operations conform to FSC's principles for well managed forests or plantations. FIO was established as a state-run logging company in 1947. When the government imposed a logging ban in 1989, many Thai NGOs demanded that FIO be closed down. Since then FIO has tried to reinvent itself as a plantation company. With the FSC certificate suspended, FIO cannot credibly claim that any of its plantations are well managed. In fact, by logging its teak plantations, FIO is encouraging illegal logging. Veerawat Dheeraprasert, chairperson of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery, a Thai NGO, explains: "If FIO does logging there is an increased chance that there will be illegal logging because the FIO will log and sell to sawmills. These sawmills can easily mix the FIO's logs with other logs from illegal log sources."
When SmartWood awarded FIO its FSC certificate in June 2001, it also issued 26 conditions, 15 of which FIO had to meet within one year. A year later, SmartWood determined that FIO had not met twelve of the conditions. SmartWood, however, did not suspend the certificate. Instead, it issued 13 corrective action requests, six of which had to be met within six months. In January 2003, SmartWood found that FIO had not met four of the corrective action requests. SmartWood, however, did not suspend the certificate. Instead, it issued six corrective action requests, all of which were "effective immediately". In June 2003, SmartWood discovered that FIO had still not met five conditions and two corrective action requests. Five months later SmartWood, at last, suspended the certificate. Certifying FIO was controversial from the start.
In November 2000, before SmartWood issued the certificate, Thai NGO TERRA published an article in its magazine "Watershed" about the certification. Rainforest Foundation included a case study on the FIO in its November 2002 critique of FSC, "Trading in Credibility". In April 2003, Foundation for Ecological Recovery wrote to FSC demanding that FSC withdraw the certificate. WRM Bulletin has covered the issue several times (see WRM Bulletins 48, 64 and 72) and in August 2003, WRM published a book titled "Certifying the Uncertifiable" which included a detailed study that I wrote on the certification of FIO. Without the pressure of this civil society monitoring, SmartWood may not have suspended the certificate.
When SmartWood suspended FIO's certificate, it also issued 16 corrective action requests, five of which must be met before FIO's certificate can be reinstated. Among SmartWood's corrective action requests are two relating to chain of custody (the technical term for tracking timber from the forest to the end use). More than two years after issuing FIO's certificate, SmartWood is now asking FIO to "improve the chain of custody system, so that the system consistently documents the movement of logs from the cutting blocks to the log yard." The clear implication is that currently FIO cannot reliably track its timber. In this case, there is no way of knowing from which plantation FIO's timber comes - or even whether the timber is legal or illegal.
One of FIO's most controversial activities is its role in auctioning illegally logged timber. When illegally logged timber is discovered by the authorities it is passed on to FIO to auction. For cash-strapped FIO, these auctions are an important source of income. For loggers, they are a way of making illegal timber legal. Suraphon Duangkhae, secretary general of Wildlife Fund Thailand, describes how logging companies send workers into forests to log illegally. "Then they ask the forest officer to arrest the workers," he says. "But when the forest officer gets to the area there are no workers, just logs. So they arrest the logs! And then FIO holds an auction and the company that's behind the scenes comes back and they win the auction." In 1997, FIO was embroiled in a major logging scandal. Loggers were illegally cutting trees in the Salween National Park and fraudulently stamping the logs as coming from Burma. Perhaps surprisingly, given that the forestry official who exposed the swindle also revealed that FIO officers were involved, FIO was among the organisations responsible for storing the confiscated logs. Perhaps not so surprisingly, by April this year more than half of the confiscated logs had "disappeared".
In May, FIO was ordered to move the logs to an army camp in Saraburi to prevent further theft. Recently the Thai government has started to ask awkward questions about the legality of 100,000 teak logs sunk in Chiang Saen Lake in northern Thailand. The owner of the logs, Archa Land Company, claims to have bought the logs from FIO. The problem is that no one can prove where the logs came from. The Nation newspaper reported Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as saying, "I believe such a large amount of wood would include some illegal timber. There are many ways to falsify records and corrupt officials are involved in the scam." As if to confirm Thaksin's worries, 200 of the logs mysteriously caught fire - the day before Natural Resources and Environment Minister Prapat Panyachatraksa was due to inspect them.
On 12 December 2003, an editorial in The Nation pointed out that in order to deal with illegal logging in Thailand, the government must look into the FIO's role. FSC certification had made the situation worse by enabling FIO to export its timber, thus making "illegal logging even more desirable." The editorial asked "whether Thailand still needs the FIO, an agency that seems to do more harm than good to the country's forest conservation efforts." The editorial's headline leaves no doubt about The Nation's opinion: "Do the right thing: abolish the FIO". By: Chris Lang, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ************************************************************ CENTRAL AMERICA - Honduras: Journalist opposing mining murdered
On the night of 26 November 2003, journalist Germán Antonio Rivas was shot and killed. He was the managing director of Corporación Maya Visión television station, which broadcasts from the western city of Santa Rosa de Copán, on the border with Guatemala. He was the director of the news program "CMV-Noticias," known for its criticism of the installation of a mining operation within the Guisayote National Park in the department of Ocotepeque, questioning the activities of the mining company due to the impact they would have on the environment and the conservation of natural resources.
Rivas had survived an assassination attempt on 24 February and had received threatening anonymous telephone calls. He was convinced on that occasion that the attack and threatening were connected to his then station's reports on the ecological damage caused by the Minerales de Occidente (MINOSA) company, particularly on a cyanide spill in the Lara River, a tributary of the Higuito River, the source of drinking water for the city of Santa Rosa. "I don't dare to confirm [that I was targeted because of this coverage], but I don't discard the possibility. To say so would put my life and that of my family at grave risk," Rivas admitted.
In a similar case, Marisol Tábora, a member of the coalition of non-governmental organisations ASONOG, was threatened with legal action in early February for conducting research into the death of fish and other species following a cyanide spill near a mine in Copan's La Unión municipality. The police have been silent regarding Rivas' assassination, allegedly because they have not found a motive for the journalist's murder. Is all the above not sufficient to at least consider the mining industry as a possible suspect?
Article based on information from: "Acción Urgente", Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), http://www.caritaspanama.org/accionsolidaria/accion_urgente_cofadeh.htm ; "Urgent Action. Journalist Assassinated in Honduras", http://www.ourworldisnotforsale.org/action/17.htm ************************************************************ SOUTH AMERICA - Argentina: One year after the Esquel "NO", a national network against mining is born
On 4 December, thousands of people from cities and villages in the Provinces of Chubut and Rio Negro again marched together with the neighbours of Esquel to say "NO to the Mine." This reaffirmation by the people took place in the midst of a new mining encroachment, as personnel of these corporations are scouring the outskirts of Cholila (in Chubut, a few kilometres from the Los Alerces National Park). If mining activities continue, various lake systems and the Patagonian Andean forest will be endangered. The fear of the population is no longer over the initiation of exploitation, but over the very stage of exploration itself. In this phase, the mining company Meridian Gold contaminated the rivers of Esquel (Huemules and Willa) and the Barrick Gold Company dumped hydrocarbons in groundwater in the province of San Juan (Valle del Cura - Pascua Lama Project).
The contagious firmness of the people of Esquel, who do not bow to the threats and attacks against the premises of the "Self-convened Neighbours for NO," and the seriousness of the mining threat led to a meeting in Buenos Aires on 24 and 25 November of delegations from Catamarca, San Juan, Chubut, Tucuman, Cordoba and Rio Negro, where they set up the National Network of Communities affected by Mining. The meeting provided an opportunity for the delegates to get to know the problems of the centre, west and northwest of Argentina.
The testimonials of the Catamarca and Tucuman delegations, affected by the exploitation of the Bajo La Alumbrera gold deposits, were conclusive. This activity compromises the Sali-Dulce basin and contamination is not only having an impact on these provinces but also on Santiago del Estero, Cordoba and Santa Fe. The Tucuman representative warned that the "yunga" forest (dry tropical forest) is threatened by the implementation of 37 mining enterprises. The delegation from San Juan repeated this warning and stated that the exploitation of the Veladero gold mine, to take place shortly, will compromise the Jachel River basin and affect the San Guillermo Biosphere Reserve (declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984).
Although the future looks gloomy, the firmness of the Esquel population and of the neighbouring villages constitute a ray of hope that people will grow in number and courage in Argentina, in their awareness of the danger they are facing. By: Hernan Scandizzo, e-mail: email@example.com ************************************************************ - Brazil: Plantar counterattacks after receiving award for worst carbon sink project
The Plantar forestry company located in the State of Minas Gerais has large eucalyptus plantations in the zone, established at the expense of evicting the local populations. They were also established at the expense of the typical forest in the zone (the "cerrado"), and the trees were converted into charcoal to supply the iron and steel industry and replaced by eucalyptus, planted for the same objective.
The company's social, environmental, economic and cultural impacts were widely documented in recent research work carried out by WRM ("Certifying the uncertifiable: FSC certification of tree plantations in Thailand and Brazil"), which sets out the impacts such as appropriation of lands and eviction of the inhabitants, depletion and contamination of water and soils, deforestation, destruction of biodiversity, net loss of jobs, bad working conditions, loss of livelihoods, and risks to health, among others. In spite of that, the World Bank decided to approve the Plantar plantations as its first carbon sink project within the portfolio of the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), later validated by the SCS consulting firm, supposedly on the basis of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.
All seemed to be going well for the company and the World Bank, until on 9 December, in the framework of the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention held in Milan, the Global Forest Coalition designated the company as winner of the 2003 Treetanic Award, granted annually to the worst carbon sink project. In their grounds for this award they stated that "in spite of the merits of the World Bank, the Prototype Carbon Fund and the State Government of Minas Gerais, the Global Forest Coalition is convinced that Plantar's past and present record of social and environmental destruction are sufficiently outstanding to be declared as the undisputed winner of the 2003 Treetanic Award.
However, the company did not feel flattered by the award. On the contrary, the following day, the directors Marcos de Deus and Marcos Vinicius called a meeting of the leaders of the Rural Workers' Trade Union (STR) of the Municipality of Curvelo in Minas Gerais. There the company exerted extreme pressure on the leaders, demanding that they sign a letter addressed to the World Bank, the text of which had been previously prepared. In their pressure on the STR leaders, the Plantar bureaucrats threatened once more with dismissals in Curvelo, in the event that the carbon credits were not forthcoming - unmistakable proof of the company's lack of economic feasibility unless State incentives, green labelling and carbon credits are forthcoming.
Putting pressure one by one on the leaders present there, like in a scene of Russian roulette, the company gathered the signatures it wanted, except that of Gracie dos Reis, who wrote "under pressure" next to her signature. The director Marcos de Deus threatened to bring a court case against her. In the letter to the World Bank, the Curvelo STR assents (under pressure) that Geraldo Martins, the trade union's lawyer, was present at the COP9 in Milan, representing the organizations Network Alert Against the Green Desert, FASE and others, but not the local STR.
An attempt is thus being made to create a climate of local opposition against Geraldo Martins, who is described as contrary to the creation of jobs in Curvelo. An attempt is also being made at dividing the Municipalities of Montes Claros and Curvelo, stating that in Milan, Geraldo Martins had criticised monoculture tree plantations, while Eliseu Oliveira from Montes Claros, had defended them. This falsity was denied in a message by both, in which they state: "We were officially accredited as delegates to the conference and we met yesterday with PCF investors. We talked to them about the environmental impacts that eucalyptus plantations cause in our regions, the drying up of springs and rivers, and the eviction of local communities. We showed them the number of jobs generated by eucalyptus plantations and compared them with the number of jobs generated by other crops such as guayaba, coffee, corn, cattle raising, milk, particularly in the States of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais, and more precisely in the areas of Plantar and Aracruz. We told them about the uncertainty of employment, the health of workers in this employment and as an example referred to an accident that took place recently in Curvelo, causing the death of 11 workers and leaving two others mutilated.
Added to this, is the fact that the companies adopt a rotational system among the workers to prevent them from ensuring labour rights, and even dismissing workers with work-related health problems. We asked them not to consider eucalyptus plantations in the Clean Development Mechanism or as carbon sinks because the plantations are only aimed at producing charcoal for the iron and steel works and pulp mills, without respecting the native vegetation. To plant the eucalyptus, native trees are uprooted, and it is like uprooting our culture, our customs and the roots of our hearts. We have submitted alternative projects for a true agrarian reform, generating more jobs, fighting against hunger and misery and consolidating the Zero Hunger Programme, respecting trees, animals, water and life.
Global warming has been caused by developed countries and the countries of the Third World should not be obliged to clean up contamination by the indiscriminate plantation of trees. We ended by saying that we were talking about the anguish of a people and they told us it was the beginning of a dialogue." Are the old military dictatorship methods back? Does Plantar have the right to repress the opinion of people who are not in agreement with the shameful process of environmental degradation caused by monoculture eucalyptus plantations? The above only goes to confirm that Plantar merits the award it has received. And if it continues along the same path, it will surely receive many more. Source: in view of the present situation triggered off by the company, WRM has omitted the sources of the information on which it based the present article, considering that if it made them public it might be dangerous for those who sent us the information. ************************************************************ - Chile: Mapuche question agreement between forestry companies and environmental NGOs
On 12 December, the Matte (CMPC companies), Angelini (Arauco) forestry groups and a number of Chilean and US environmental NGOs signed an agreement (see http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Chile/article2.html) whereby the companies have agreed to conserve the areas of native forest existing on their properties - representing 2.8% of the total surface of the native forests in the country - and not replace them by tree plantations. The Mapuche Coordination of Organizations and Territorial Identities has questioned this agreement (see http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Chile/article3.html).
In a declaration mainly aimed at American Lands Alliance, but also at the other signatories of the agreement, the Mapuche Coordination recognizes the value of the campaign promoted by these organizations in the United States in favour of the protection of the native forest and even their denunciation of the situation facing the Mapuche communities because of plantation expansion. However, the Mapuche Coordination considers that the conditions are not appropriate for negotiations with these forestry companies. Furthermore, the Mapuche organizations also questioned the call to promote Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification or other similar schemes, because this implies endorsing forestry invasion and the serious conflicts that the Mapuche communities are facing, such as territorial conflicts, decrease and loss of water resources, poverty, migration, unemployment, clear-felling in a country that is generally mountainous, pressure and enclosing of communities, causing irreparable damage to their social, cultural and spiritual life.
CMPC and Arauco are among the entities controlling the timber market and have been protected by the Chilean State. They have triggered off conflicts that have ended in the militarization of Mapuche "reducciones" (Indian villages) with the application of laws inherited from the Pinochet dictatorial regime, such as the Law for State domestic security and the Anti-terrorist Law. The Mapuche have suffered from many arrests, persecutions, police repression and even the murder of 17 year-old Alex Lemun, by the Chilean police in the property of the Mininco Forestry Company (a member of the CMPC group) on 7 November 2002 (see WRM Bulletin No. 64). Furthermore, the bill on native forests presently under discussion, establishes a subsidy of 5 Monthly Tax Units (Unidades Tributarias Mensuales - UTM) per hectare for those who fence in their properties, allowing for natural regeneration and the recovery of degraded forests. There is a bonus of up to 5 UTM per hectare to achieve the preservation of forests of high ecological value and to maintain biological diversity.
In figures, conservation would become another business for the companies, and they would be collecting over 180 million dollars. The Mapuche organizations consider that any negotiation with these companies may have negative effects on the fair statement of their needs, problems and respective solutions. It would only serve to continue consolidating international timber export markets, with their corollary of expansion of plantations, annexing Mapuche territory and benefiting from the vulnerability that these communities and small scale peasants are suffering from, to encourage them to be the ones to plant pines and eucalyptus. The forestry sector economic groups are directly responsible for the marginalization and oppression in which political networks maintain the Mapuche people.
The Mapuche organizations, for their part, propose curbing forestry expansion to protect the natural resources and to transform the present political, social and legislative relations that this People face within the Chilean State. This is why they are underscoring the importance of understanding that Mapuche interests should not be opposed to the interests of NGOs regarding environmental protection and more specifically, that of forest conservation.
Article based on information from: "Acuerdo forestales, ambientalistas y Presidente Lagos", MAPUEXPRESS, 15 November 2003, http://www.mapuexpress.net ; "¿Qué hay detrás de estos acuerdos? Acuerdo entre CMPC y Arauco con ambientalistas sobre el bosque nativo", Homero Altamirano, 18 November 2003, published in the Llanalhue noticias newspaper (Cañete VIII Region); Letter from the Mapuche Coordination of Organizations and Territorial Identities to American Lands, Forestethics, Greenpeace, Defensores del Bosque, TERRAM, Instituto de Ecología Política. ************************************************************ - Colombia: The uncertifiable plantations of a member of the FSC Board of Directors
In 1998, the author Joe Broderick finished his research on the Smurfit Carton de Colombia company, publishing his book "El imperio de cartón: impacto de una multinacional papelera en Colombia" (The Cardboard empire: the impact of a multinational paper company in Colombia). In this book he provides details of the serious social and environmental impacts caused by the activities of a branch of the Irish transnational company, Jefferson Smurfit in that country. In November this year, WRM was invited by Colombian organizations to visit the region affected by Smurfit's pine and eucalyptus plantations, to observe the problems and listen to the opinions of the local inhabitants in person.
The visit not only fully confirmed the information provided by Broderick, but also showed that the company has not changed one iota of its policies regarding people and the environment and that their relationship with the local society continues to be as problematic as it was when the book was first published. None of this should astonish us, as the impacts of a branch of the same company had been recorded by WRM in the neighbouring Venezuela, following a similar visit carried out in December 1998 to the plantations of Smurfit Carton de Venezuela Company. In an article written after this visit we concluded that "the 'development' model implemented by Smurfit in Portuguesa is unsustainable, regarding both social and environmental impacts.
In spite of its policy of harassment and repression, the company does not seem to have much success in overcoming the determination of the people to oppose their activities and a major question mark appears regarding how long the plantations will be able to survive (even protected by barbed wire, dogs and armed men), being surrounded by hundreds of people who hate those trees and the company that they represent. If tree plantations are unsustainable in general, in this case they seem to be less sustainable that ever." Something similar could be said of the impacts in Colombia, where the company has been involved in deforestation processes, where there have been severe impacts on water, fauna and flora and where it has been a key factor in the eviction of the rural population in the zones where it has established itself.
All this, and much more, became evident from the interviews WRM held last month with the local population. The local people told us that "the plantations have finished off the water," that "spraying has finished with everything there was in the soil," that "there is hardly any fauna left," that there used to be "clouds of birds" and that now "only in the summer does some bird appear, but not in winter time," and that "there are no fish left either." Regarding employment, they reported "all the work is seasonal" (it is outsourced) and that "the contract implies working for two and earning for one." Like in the jungle, only the fittest survive: "if you don't reach production, they remove you, you can't be over 40 and we all have to be strong to reach that production." Regarding worker organization, not only is there no trade union, but "he who grumbles is out" and "here no comments are made."
With this curriculum, no one would think that the company might be interested in the subject of certification of timber produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Its over 60,000 hectares of monoculture tree plantations are not certified and we doubt that they ever will be. Therefore, we are amazed that Smurfit is a member of the board of directors of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), considered to be one of the most credible certification systems on an international level. The FSC web page informs us that Mr. Victor Giraldo represents the company on the FSC board of directors. Its presence does little good to FSC and someone should start asking the relevant questions. For our part, we are at FSC's disposal to elaborate on the information we have on the company.
Article based on information from Carrere, R. "Report on a visit to regions in Colombia with Smurfit plantations, 31/10/03 - 7/11/03" (internal report), FSC web page: http://www.fscoax.org/html/5-1-1.html ; Broderick, J. "El imperio de cartón: impacto de una multinacional papelera en Colombia", Bogotá, Planeta, 1998; Carrere, R. "Smurfit Cartón de Venezuela: las plantaciones de la discordia" http://www.revistadelsur.org.uy/revista.087-088/WRM.html) ************************************************************ * GENERAL ************************************************************ - Extractive Industries Review calls for limits of World Bank funding of mining activities
As the global economy expands, pressure on indigenous lands to yield up minerals, oil and gas is intensifying, posing a major threat on them, their lands, territories and the resources that they depend on. The World Bank has been an instrument of such process, supporting mining projects that have been even condemned by the United Nations. World Bank Group interventions in the extractive industries sector have negatively impacted indigenous peoples in manifold ways. It has routinely advised countries to rewrite national mining codes to facilitate large-scale mining by foreign companies. It has weakened the legal protections previously enjoyed by indigenous peoples. It has directly supported mines, oil and gas ventures without adequate assessment of the social and environmental consequences and without taking heed of the lack of good governance and institutional or regulatory capacity in project areas or countries. Its policies make little mention of human rights.
In the case of the indigenous forest-dwelling Bagyeli, they have suffered the impact of the World Bank sponsored Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline Project. The project has been carried out even when the Bagyeli and supporting NGOs had clearly demonstrated the risks and even though World Bank's Board members admitted that the Bank's safeguard policy on indigenous peoples has not been properly applied. "They promised us jobs. They took everything from us. They took our land. They took our forest. They took our water", says Sama Bailie of South West Cameroon (see WRM Bulletins Nº 72, 66, 45, 41, 35, 14 and 2).
Now, an official evaluation of the impacts of World Bank financing for extractive industries --the Extractive Industries Review (EIR)-- calls on the Bank to immediately stop financing coal projects and to phase out support for oil projects by 2008. It urges the Bank to require prior informed consent of communities that would be affected by oil and mining projects and human rights protections. And it says the Bank should reject financing for environmentally destructive practices such as dumping effluents into rivers and oceans. The final report, recently issued in December, was strongly critical of the record of the extractive industries in development, human rights, and environmental terms (the full report is available on www.eireview.org).
The EIR recommends that adoption of and demonstrated compliance with human rights principles should be a prerequisite for companies seeking World Bank Group support for extractive industries, a requirement that would certainly pose a problem for many companies --like Shell, Anglo-American, ChevronTexaco, and ExxonMobil-- which face judicial investigations for their role in human rights abuses. As Keith Slack of Oxfam America has put it: "The EIR has put forward some strong recommendations to try to address the problems, but the responsibility now shifts to the Bank. We'll all be looking to James Wolfensohn and his staff now to implement these changes".
Meanwhile, communities and peoples at large continue with their resistance against the global forces that encroach on their lives to deprive them of their lands and livelihoods, their health and food, their past and future. Article based on information from: "Good News: Recommendations for World Bank Policy Changes", "World Bank Official Review Advises: Respect Human Rights, Pull Out of Coal and Oil Financing", from Paula Palmer, Global Response, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , http://www.globalresponse.org ; sent by Amazon Alliance, e-mail: email@example.com ; http://www.amazonalliance.org ************************************************************ - Rivers for Life! The Rasi Salai Declaration
On 28 November-4 December 2003, at Rasi Salai, Thailand, the Thailand-based Assembly of the Poor, USA-based International Rivers Network (IRN), and Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN) from Thailand, organized the Second International Meeting of Dam Affected People and their Allies, or Rivers for Life! The meeting was attended by more than 300 people from 62 countries throughout the world, peoples affected by dams, fighters against destructive dams, and activists for sustainable and equitable water and energy management. They met on land that is being restored to life after being flooded by a dam. The gates of the dam are now open, the river flows, the crops have ripened, the fish are starting to return, community life is becoming vibrant once more.
The dam-affected people of Thailand offer all peoples an example of determination and struggle to preserve lives, rivers, territories, cultures, and identities. Water for life, not for death! The call made at the First International Meeting of People Affected By Dams, held in Curitiba, Brazil, 1997, has been realised in Rasi Salai, Thailand. The full Rasi Salai declaration is available at: http://www.irn.org/programs/rasi/index.asp?id=031204.rasidecl.html _______________________________________________ World Rainforest Movement International Secretariat http://www.wrm.org.uy