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WORLD RAINFOREST MOVEMENT MOVIMIENTO MUNDIAL POR LOS BOSQUES TROPICALES International Secretariat Ph: +598 2 413 2989 Ricardo Carrere (Coordinator) Fax: +598 2 418 0762 Maldonado 1858; CP 11200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Montevideo - Uruguay Web site: http://www.wrm.org.uy WRM Bulletin # 69 April 2003 (English edition) In this issue: * OUR VIEWPOINT - The struggle to avoid war 2 * LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS AFRICA - Congo, Democratic Republic: Cell phones, forest destruction and death 3 - Kenya: Canadian titanium mining challenged by new government 5 - Liberia: "Logs of War" arrive in Italy 6 - South Africa: Timber industry and not medicinal plant gatherers behind forest loss 7 ASIA - East Timor: Survival, oil and sovereignty 7 - Laos: Asian Development Bank to support proposed Nam Theun 2 dam 9 - Malaysia: The plight of women workers in oil palm plantations 10 - Vietnam starts resettlement to make way for massive Son La dam 12 CENTRAL AMERICA - Belize: Another turn of the screw on the Chalillo dam project 13 - Guatemala: Indigenous rights and logging licenses 15 NORTH AMERICA - United States: Kinkos says no to genetically engineered trees 15 SOUTH AMERICA - Argentina: Echoes of the plebiscite against Canadian mining exploitation 16 - Brazil: Social and environmental disaster caused by paper mill 18 - Brazil: The need to avoid eucalyptus causing the same damage in Sao Paulo as it has done in Minas Gerais 19 - Uruguay: Inhuman working conditions at a Chilean forestry company plantation 20 OCEANIA - Papua New Guinea: Malaysian companies logging out the forest 22 * PLANTATIONS DEBATE - Do you believe in Planted Forests? 22 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 OUR VIEWPOINT - The struggle to avoid war While the bombs still fall, the military tanks roll on, thousands of people die, the probable victors are already sharing out the loot. That is what this war was all about. Saddam and his mythical weapons of mass destruction were no more than a not very credible excuse. The whole world knew and still knows it. Both the oil and the lucrative contracts to reconstruct what they themselves destroyed are already in “good” hands. In this case, the immaculate fluorescent green war, with fireworks launched by “intelligent weapons” and “friendly fire” presented by CNN was complemented by the war of pain, death and destroyed bodies shown by Al-Jazeera. Unlike the Gulf war --where we only saw the fireworks-- this time the world entire world watched in horror the spectacle of the real war. However, whether the war is shown to us in a real or in a virtual way, it should be pointed out that in both cases we run the same risk: that of growing accustomed to it. The horror and indignation over a war that we all know is unjust and whose televised pictures enter our houses daily, is followed by the acceptance that there will be more wars. There is already talk of Iran, Syria, North Korea, as episodes that are as outrageous as inevitable of a permanent war. This is the greatest challenge: to avoid becoming accustomed to war and to continue fighting for peace. For years now, it is being said that the next wars will be over water. It is considered inevitable. Books are written and pictures made on the issue. You only have to wait for water to get scarcer for the inevitable denouement to take place. However, it is as avoidable as was the war that so many human beings are now suffering. Of course, if the world continues along the path it is following, water will become scarce. What is more, drinking water is already scarce in many parts of the world, both in the north and in the south because of the unsustainable production and consumption model imposed throughout the planet. As a consequence of this model, forests and wetlands --the regulators of water par excellence-- continue to disappear. Watercourses continue to be modified and obstructed by large hydroelectric dams. Industry contaminates water sources all over the planet. Commercial agriculture continues to poison the land with agrochemicals that end up by contaminating water. The enormous monoculture eucalyptus plantations pump out millions of litres of water from the soil and prevent the water table from being replenished. All these events are reflected in articles describing very real situations in this same bulletin. However, it is important to note that none of this is inevitable. On the contrary, peoples are crying out and struggling all over the world to avoid it. Against their governments, against the large corporations, against international organizations. Some times, they succeed, some times, they are defeated. Nevertheless, they struggle to avoid it. However, from the centres of power, war continues to be chosen. Against nature, against water and against the people. Instead of addressing the causes generating the loss of water resources, the large companies have chosen to appropriate water. The privatization process is rapidly advancing and water --an essential resource for all living beings-- is gradually being taken over by the large corporations whose only objective is to make a profit. It is well known that the scarcer a resource is, the greater the profit for those who own it. If we continue along this path, the consequences will of course be the usual ones: multinational water companies in one country will confront multinational water companies in another. Those of the stronger country will invade those of the weaker country. Not in their own countries of course, but in third party countries governed by some tyrant put into power by one of the two bands. Just as if water were oil. It is time for common sense to prevail over madness. Humanity‟s resources should be precisely that: resources of and for humanity. So far, no dictionary has stated that the word “company” is a synonym of “humanity.” Water is 2 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 the source of all life and therefore access to water is a primordial human right. Its defence starts by protecting the ecosystems that ensure the water cycle --in particular forests and wetlands-- and ends by ensuring that each human being has drinking water available in accordance with his/her needs. The war for water simply must not take place. Never. However, to ensure this, we now have to confront policies and actions leading to degradation and privatization of water in every corner of the planet and, at the same time, promote policies and actions leading to its conservation and equitable distribution. Citizens have the historic role of ensuring that their governments place the rights of their citizens before those of transnational companies, favouring life over death, peace over war. Each person has a role to fulfil, from defending a forest to opposing a dam, from promoting organic agriculture to opposing mining and oil exploitation, from advocating a legislation favouring conservation and equitable use of water to opposing monoculture tree plantations. It is possible. The war over water can be avoided. It is a task for us all. top LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS AFRICA - Congo, Democratic Republic: Cell phones, forest destruction and death Could anyone imagine that cell phones are tainted with the blood of 3.2 million deaths since 1998? Also, that the same thing happens with some children‟s video games? And that mega-technologies contribute to forest depredation and spoliation of the rich natural resources of paradoxically impoverished peoples? In the case of these new high techs, it is Coltan that is at stake --the minerals columbium and tantalite, or Coltan for short. Tantalite is a rare, hard and dense metal, very resistant to corrosion and high temperatures and is an excellent electricity and heat conductor. It is used in the microchips of cell phone batteries to prolong duration of the charge, making this business flourish. Provisions for 2004 foresee sales of 1,000 million units. To these properties are added that its extraction does not entail heavy costs --it is obtained by digging in the mud-- and that it is easily sold, enabling the companies involved in the business to obtain juicy dividends. Even though Coltan is extracted in Brazil, Thailand and much of it from Australia --the prime producer of Coltan on a world level-- it is in Africa where 80% of the world reserves are to be found. Within this continent, the Democratic Republic of Congo concentrates over 80% of the deposits, where 10,000 miners toil daily in the province of Kivu (eastern Congo), a territory that has been occupied since 1998 by the armies of Rwanda and Uganda. A series of companies has been set up in the zone, associated to large transnational capital, local governments and military forces (both state and “guerrilla”) in a dispute over the control of the region for the extraction of Coltan and other minerals. The United Nations has not hesitated to state that this strategic mineral is funding a war that the former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright called “the first African world war” (and we understand by world wars, those in which the great powers share out the world), and is one of its causes. In August 1998, the Congolese Union for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-RCD), launched a rebellion in the city of Goma, supported by the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA). Since then, in a struggle in which, behind the myth of ethnic rivalries, are hidden the old colonial powers that continue to ransack the wealth of post-Colonial Africa, the war has been rife between two, loosely defined parties. On the one hand the RDC and the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda, supported by the United States, relying on the military bases such as that built in Rwanda by the United States company Brown & Root, a branch of Halliburton, where Rwandese forces are trained and logistic support is provided to their troops in the DRC, together with United States combat helicopters and spy satellites. The other party is made up of the Democratic Republic of Congo (led by one of Kabila‟s sons, after his father was assassinated by the Rwandese), Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. 3 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 However, behind these states are the companies sharing out the zone. Various joint companies have been set up for this purpose, the most important one being SOMIGL (the Great Lakes Mining Company), a joint company set up in November 2000, involving Africom, Premeco, Cogecom and Cogear, (the latter two are Belgian companies --it should be remembered that DRC, formerly the Belgian Congo, was a Belgian colony), Masingiro GmbH (a German company) and various other companies that ceased their activities in January 2002 for various reasons (a drop in Coltan prices, difficult working conditions, suspension of Coltan imports from DRC) and are waiting for better conditions: Sogem (a Belgian company), Cabot and Kemet (U.S.) the joint United States-German company Eagles Wings Resources (now with headquarters in Rwanda), among others. The transport companies belong to close family members of the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda. In these virtually military zones, private air companies bring in arms and take out minerals. Most of the Coltan extracted is later refined by a small number of companies in Germany, the United States, Kazakhstan and the Far East. The branch of Bayer, Starck produces 50% of powdered tantalite on a world level. Dozens of companies are linked to the traffic and elaboration of this product, with participation of the major monopolizing companies in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. As if this were not enough, the Trade, Development and Industry Bank, created in 1996 with headquarters in the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, acts as correspondent for the CITIBANK in the zone, and handles large amounts of money from Coltan, gold and diamond operations. Thirty-four companies import Coltan from the Congo, among these, 27 are of western origin, mainly Belgian, Dutch and German. The Belgian air company, Sabena is one of the means of transporting the mineral from Kigali (capital city of Rwanda) to Brussels, and associated to American Airlines, announced last 15 June the suspension of the service, under strong pressure from the world campaign “No blood on my cell phone!” (or: “Pas de sang sur mon GSM”), exhorting people not to buy cell phones containing Coltan due to its repercussion on the prolongation of the civil war in the Congo. As a result of this campaign, the Belgian research institute International Peace Information Service (IPIS) produced a document in January 2002 “Supporting the War Economy in the DRC: European Companies and the Coltan Trade,” which documents the leading role played by the companies in promoting the war through their cooperation with the military and exhorting that the international consideration of the Coltan trade be given priority over its local aspects. The main zones where Coltan is extracted are located in forest zones, such as the Ituri forest (see WRM bulletin No. 67). The entry of military commandos and workers (many of them farmers who have been dispossessed of their lands and resources, seeking the promise of better income), the installation of mining camps, the construction of routes to reach and take out the coveted mineral, all this goes to conspire against the forest as a whole. Formerly fulfilling functions for the region and the neighbouring peoples, the forest, once the traditional lands of the hunting and gathering indigenous peoples, such as the Mbuti and a reserve for gorillas and okapis --a relative of the giraffe-- the habitat of elephants and monkeys, has become the scenario for war and depredation. The African journalist, Kofi Akosah-Sarpong has even stated that “Coltan in general terms is not helping the local people. In fact, it is the curse of the Congo.” He has revealed that there is evidence that this material contaminates, pointing out its connection with congenital deformations in babies in the mining zone, which are born with bandy legs. Far from clean and innocent, these technologies, on which the concentration of capitals is based and built, have acquired through their “globalisation” their highest expression, contaminating and breaking up the web of life in its multiple and rich manifestations. In the meanwhile, over the tombs of the 2000 African children and farmers who die every day in the Congo, can we absentmindedly continue to use our cell phones? Article based on information from: "Supporting the War Economy in the DRC: European Companies and the Coltan Trade” and “European companies and the Coltan Trade: an Update”, International Peace Information Service, http://users.skynet.be/ipis/tnewpubsnl.htm ; “Basta de matanzas y saqueo en el Congo”, Solidarité Europe-Afrique, Belgium, http://www2.minorisa.es/inshuti/extracto.htm ; “La fiebre del coltan: el imperialismo continúa”, Ramiro de Altube, Observatorio de Conflictos, correo electrónico: email@example.com , 4 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 http://www.nodo50.org/observatorio/coltan.htm ; “La fiebre del coltan”, Ramón Lobo, El País Spain, 2/09/2001, http://www.elpais.es/suplementos/domingo/20010902/1fiebre.html ; “UN report accuses Western companies of looting Congo”, Chris Talbot, 26/10/2002, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/oct2002/cong-o26.shtml ; “The Trouble With Coltan”, Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, http://www.expotimes.net/issue020116/AAbusiness2.htm top - Kenya: Canadian titanium mining challenged by new government Tiomin Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of Tiomin Resources Inc. of Canada, began exploring the mineral sands of Kenyan coast in 1995 in search of titanium. (see WRM Bulletin Nº 38.). Stretching for 402 kilometers, the area is a unique tropical culture with ancient Arabic architecture, coral reefs, and fragile ecosystems. Further research proved there were five titanium rich sites with 650 million tons at Mambrui and 1.2 billion tons at Sokoke. There were unknown quantities at Sabaki, Mombasa, and Kwale. The deposits were of such quantity that could be mined for 20 years at a rate of 480,000 tonnes per annum. They contain rutile, ilmenite, and zircon, the first two being sources of titanium dioxide (primarily used in the production of pigments for paints, plastics and paper), while zircon is used in the fabrication of ceramic and enamel glazing, refractories and electronic equipment. In 2002, the previous Kanu Government granted an environmental permit to Tiomin allowing negotiations for a monumental titanium strip mining lease to begin in the Kwale district, near the country's southeast coast. The decision furthered the proposed US$120-million project, which would displace nearly 5,000 people from their homes and fields, covering approximately 2,400 hectares of land. Opposition to the mining project has been rife among the local people, with concerns about the desecration of ancestral graves and the fate of their sacred forests, in addition to losing their homes, health, and livelihood. Kenyan scientists were also concerned about sulphur dioxide emissions, the health risk of the release of radioactive uranium and thorium in the titanium laden Kwale sands --now in their thermodynamic stable state--, about the threats to the marine life and to the coral reefs posed by the mining facility. Now, the project is being challenged by the new National Rainbow Coalition government, which has announced that it is planning to conduct a public forum to discuss whether Tiomin Resources Inc. should be licensed to start mining the mineral in Kenya. The assistant environment minister and renowned environmentalist Professor Wangari Maathai, said that "the government is still hesitant" to license the company "as there are environmental concerns which have not been sorted out." Her ministry announced that an independent team will carry another environmental impact assessment "to assess the dangers the mining might pose to the ecosystem”, since a previous environmental assessment report presented by the mining firm to the previous government had received much criticism with stakeholders dismissing it as shoddy. A second study led by Dr. Wamicha, of Kenyatta University, warning about the level of radioactivity and presence of sulfur during the mining, had been scorned by Tiomin. The firm's vice president, Mathew Edler, then said, “Kenya lacks environmental consultants who have the necessary experience to manage the EIA [environmental impact assessment] for the Kwale project. Placing the EIA title on its cover does not make it credible,” triggering an uproar from the same people now in government. Corporations such as this are certainly very good at producing all the necessary EIAs. They can easily hire all the necessary consultants to put a stamp of approval on any of their projects. They do have the money. But they lack something far more important: the social and environmental credentials that are present in some of the present Kenyan government officials. Things appear to have changed and the mining project seems to be further away now than it was before. Article based on information from: “Titanium Mine Threatens Communities in Kenya”, Volume 4, Number 19, November 23, 1999, http://www.moles.org/ProjectUnderground/drillbits/4_19/4.html ; “Hotspots”, Volume 7, Number 6, July 31, 2002, Drillbits & Tailings, http://www.moles.org/ProjectUnderground/drillbits/7_06/hotspots.html ; 5 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 “Titanium Mine License Eludes Canadian Firm in Kenya”, Jennifer Wanjiru, Environment News Service (ENS), “Cancel Titanium Project, Kibaki Gov't Urged”, The East African Standard (Nairobi), January 2, 2003, http://allafrica.com/stories/200301020625.html top - Liberia: "Logs of War" arrive in Italy On March 31, in the Italian port of Ravenna, Greenpeace activists uncovered a shipment of rainforest “conflict timber”, a term defined by the British-based NGO Global Witness as “the timber that has been traded at some point in the chain of custody by armed groups, be they rebel factions, regular soldiers or the civilian administration, either to perpetuate conflict or take advantage of conflict situations for personal gain”. The activists branded the logs by painting them with slogan “Logs of War” since they came from the Liberian company Maryland Wood Processing Industries (MWPI), whose President has been linked to the illegal trade of weapons according to an expert panel report of the UN Security Council. The report gave evidence of the Liberian logging industry‟s role in the illegal arms trafficking business which in turn fuels regional conflict in West Africa. Additionally, a report produced by Global Witness has produced new evidence of the continuing links between the logging industry and illicit arms trade to Liberia. The report reveals that the President and chief shareholder of MWPI, Abbas Fawaz, has helped oversee the importation of weaponry into Liberia through Harper Port, which is under the management of MWPI. In 2002, Fawas brought weapons that were destined for use by Liberian-backed rebels in Cote d‟Ivoire. He is a close associate of Liberian President Charles Taylor. In April 2002 Greenpeace had confronted the Italian Timber Importer Federation about the presence of conflict timber on the Italian market. After several meetings, the Federation members agreed to stop the import of timber from companies linked with the illicit arms trade and illegal logging operations. However, timber imports from Liberia continued, as shown by this shipment. Not only has the Italian timber industry failed to take into account the UN Security Council evidence, but also the same UN Security Council has failed to impose sanctions on the Liberian timber industry. A new discussion on UN sanctions on Liberia is scheduled on May 7th in New York. “The Italian government said it would be in the front line against terrorism and international insecurity, but at the same time Italy is still importing timber which is fuelling the civil war in West Africa and the illegal arms trade," said Sergio Baffoni, Greenpeace forests campaigner. This exposes that international timber trade is built on the massive demand for cheap and plentiful tropical timber in the consuming markets of the North, mainly the US, the European Union and Japan. Italy will soon lead the European political process to control illegal logging and trade, through the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance & Trade (FLEGT) agreement. Greenpeace will be calling on all European governments to end their role in the trade of illegal timber coming from ancient forest destruction or linked to armed conflicts. However, a question remains open: is there any legal logging at all? (See WRM Bulletin Nº 53.) From a government perspective the answer is yes, but for the customary owners of the forest, all industrial logging is illegal, because if fails to recognise their rights as owners and custodians of the forest. 6 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 Article based on information from: “Italy-Greenpeace Exposes Conflict Timber Cargo Linked to Illicit Arms trade in Liberia”, Greenpeace, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ; http://www.greenpeace.org ; “Controlling Imports of Illegal Timber: Options for Europe”, FERN, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.fern.org/ top - South Africa: Timber industry and not medicinal plant gatherers behind forest loss Recently, an article on the major “threat” posed to South African indigenous forests by illegal gatherers of medicinal plants has been widely disseminated. Michael Peter, Director of Indigenous Forestry Management of the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, said that “The medicinal plant trade is the single largest cause of indigenous forest degradation in South Africa”. However, Wally Menne, from the South African NGO Timberwatch Coalition, has something to say about this. He stresses that “it‟s time to open our eyes and face the reality that the timber industry is really the biggest culprit when it comes to damaging forests”. According to data compiled by Timberwatch, native forests are estimated to cover less than 0.25% of southern Africa's surface area, making this the smallest biome on the subcontinent. These forests, which tend to occur in belts made up of patches --such as in the Drakensberg, or in contiguous strips such as along the Southern Cape coast and the coastal dunes of Kwa Zulu/ Natal-- have suffered a substantial decrease as a result of human activities including agriculture and grazing. The pressure has increased as a result of the expansion of timber plantations and industrial crops --such as sugar cane-- into natural areas which in turn has displaced local people. Thus, the process has indirect or off-site impacts on forest, since the people tend to go further inside the forest in order to make a living. According to Wally Menne: “Putting the blame on nameless „commercial gatherers‟ is rather weak when you consider that plantation roads have provided access to forests for underpaid contract workers who are hardly likely to pass up an opportunity to make a bit of money from gathering medicinal plants. Usually they are from outside the area (often even outside the country) and are too poor to care about the consequences of their actions. The full-time „commercial gatherers‟ who usually just transport the plant material, often employ people like these to do their dirty work. The contract labour system used by the likes of Mondi and SAPPI [the two largest tree plantation companies in the country] needs to be put on trial to see what the real problem is.” Article based on information from: “Illegal gatherers threatening SA forests”, March 26 2003, Richard Davies, http://www.iol.co.za ; “Forests in South Africa under Threat”, Timberwatch Coalition, http://www.timberwatch.org.za/forests_in_south_africa_under_threat.htm ; personal communication from Wally Menne, Timberwatch, e-mail email@example.com top ASIA - East Timor: Survival, oil and sovereignty “The strategy consisted of surviving.” The population of Timor gave this answer to an Oilwatch delegation visiting the country a week after declaration of independence. To keep alive during the massacre unleashed and organised by the president of Indonesia. They even told us that the president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmão, acted as a magician to save his life, thanks to a sleight of hand, when he was detained in 1992. He owes his life to magic. East Timor became an independent Republic on 20 May 2002, but its birth was accompanied by a big doubt. Was it an advantage or a disadvantage to be on top of a gigantic oil deposit? Could sovereignty grow amidst the 7 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 pressure of multinational companies? Perhaps today, following the invasion of Iraq by the United States, the reply is simpler than it was then. Nineteen thousand square kilometres of this small 32 thousand square kilometre island, belong to East Timor. The whole island is a testimonial of the long war waged since it was invaded in December 1975 by the regime of Soeharto, the Indonesian dictator. The invasion took place only 10 days after it had stopped being a Portuguese colony. With the “carnation revolution,” Portugal renounced its colonies and East Timor started dreaming of sovereignty. The army of the dictatorial government of Soeharto --who came into power just like most tyrants, with the support of the United States-- murdered half the population of Timor. This intervention took place with the blessing of Washington, which feared that Timor would turn towards socialism, as had other former Portuguese colonies. Once Soeharto had fallen, and with the usual tardy intervention of the United Nations, a referendum was convened in which 78.5 % of the voters in East Timor voted for independence. The voting was not higher, due to the island‟s colonization programmes imposed by the Indonesian government. Following the referendum, killings again broke out, under the instigation of the Indonesian government and with the habitual impotence of the United Nations. East Timor conquered its independence by keeping itself alive. Today, in spite of having achieved territorial sovereignty, Timor is facing serious difficulties and must wage another battle for the sovereignty of its heritage. The new country has arisen with forests degraded by military action. The Indonesian army deforested large areas, and even defoliated the forest to fight the guerrilla. With exports of a little coffee and the extraction of a little sandalwood, which has been devastated since Portuguese times, Timor has difficulties in structuring proposals that will enable it to have food sovereignty. Not to mention energy sovereignty: its sources of energy, in addition to firewood, are kerosene, gasoline and diesel oil imported from Indonesia, which does not reach the majority of the population. However, under the surface are enormous oil and gas reserves, not only offshore oil (existing in three regions) but also two areas of natural outcrops, with gas in one and oil in the other. East Timor started its independent life in the midst of a total economic crisis and absolute dependence on international aid, mainly from the United Nations. Although as is frequent in these cases, aid is self-aid and of the funds invested in rehabilitation programmes, over 80% went to pay foreign consultants. The situation is getting steadily worse. On 23 July 2002, Timor became a new member of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The tradition of this bank has been to invest in mega-projects and presently, within a policy of poverty reduction in the style of the IMF and the World Bank, it is supporting liberalization and privatization processes. As in the World Bank, decisions within ADB are taken by weighted vote and the weight is determined by investment in the bank, which gives Japan a weight of 13.1 when it comes to decisions, and Timor a weight of 0.3. The plans for Timor are not the support of its sovereignty, but on the contrary, they aim at depriving it of its rights. Timor is making efforts to have control over its oil reserves in an unequal battle with Indonesia and Australia and under the pressure of large companies such as Shell and Conoco-Philips who are trying to find out who will give them greater privileges in order to decide with whom to negotiate. They are concerned over Timor‟s intention of introducing new taxes. Oil in Timor is a double trap: a constant threat to its sovereignty and the risk of becoming trapped in a bond-holding model of the economy. 8 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 Expectations over the income from gas and oil are very high. It is calculated that Timor could receive between 8 and 38 billion dollars over the next 30 years, depending on the frontier line established. To have an idea of the enormity of these figures, it is sufficient to say that the government‟s budget for the coming year is barely 77 million dollars. The discussion on sovereignty has many sides. East Timor paid a high human price to gain territorial independence. Today all its assets are at risk, as reserves of this magnitude could potentially destroy the country. Xanana Gusmão and his cabinet will again have to turn to magic to re-conquer sovereignty over their heritage. Hopefully, they will continue to believe in it and in the need to remain sovereign. By: Esperanza Martínez, Oilwatch, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org top - Laos: Asian Development Bank to support proposed Nam Theun 2 dam The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding a US$1.4 million evaluation and due diligence study of the proposed Nam Theun 2 hydropower dam in Laos. Despite the project‟s massive impacts on forests, under the terms of the Bank‟s proposed new forestry policy the ADB has no obligation to consider whether the Nam Theun 2 dam project complies with its forestry policy. Earlier this year, the ADB announced via its web-site that it would be funding a “Power Sector Development” technical assistance project in Laos. According to Bank‟s information, the project is “to assist the Government of Lao PDR in undertaking the preparatory work for the development of a hydropower project in the country.” In response to a request for further information, the ADB‟s Sadiq Zaidi confirmed that the ADB will be carrying out an “evaluation and due diligence of NT2 [Nam Theun 2] to assess the social and the environmental impacts and to ensure that appropriate mitigatory and compensatory measures are included in the project design that complies with ADB's policies and guidelines.” Starting in the early 1990s, Bolisat Phathana Khet Phoudoi (BPKP) a Lao military-run logging company has clearcut the 450 square kilometre reservoir area of the proposed 1,000 MW Nam Theun 2 dam. BPKP has also logged in areas around the reservoir, including areas that are supposed to be protected. The company even logged an area that had been set aside as a community forest for future use by resettled villagers. Although the dam may never be built, the Nam Theun 2 project has already had a major impact on the forests of the area. Yet, the ADB‟s technocrats will not need to evaluate whether the project complies with the Bank‟s proposed new forestry policy. The policy is currently in draft form and due to be completed in June or July according to the Bank‟s Javed Hussain Mir. In the strange world of the ADB, just because a project affects forests, it does not mean that it has to comply with the Bank‟s policy on forests. In 1995, the ADB launched a new forestry policy and optimistically claimed that it would, in future, “refuse to finance any rural infrastructure or public investment project that will, directly or indirectly, cause significant deforestation or forest degradation”. The ADB has failed to uphold this promise. In the Mekong Region, the ADB identified a series of major roads, railway lines, hydropower dams and electricity transmission projects, all of which if built, would have a major impact on the forests of the region. In 1996, the NGO Working Group on the ADB published a response to the ADB‟s forestry policy, which commented on the Banks‟ infrastructure plans for the Mekong Region: “There has been no analysis of whether and how this will contribute to forest destruction in the region. Similarly, the 9 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 well-established link between construction of roads and increased commercial forestry has not been addressed by the Bank.” The major roads that the ADB is planning for the Mekong Region have little or nothing to do with helping farmers get their products to local markets; the roads are built to extract goods and in the case of Laos, timber in particular. Route 9 cuts Laos in two and links Mukdahan in Thailand with the port of Dong Ha on the Vietnamese coast. The widening of the road will result in the forced eviction of more than 6,000 people currently living along the road. Route 9 is used by Vietnamese logging companies to export timber from Savannakhet to Vietnam and the road passes close to two National Biodiversity Conservation Areas. ADB project documents admit that “While the road rehabilitation will improve transport, this may also exacerbate illegal trade of wildlife and log export.” However, Route 9 forms part of the “East-West Corridor”, one of the ADB‟s “flagship programs”. Governments in the Mekong Region “must ensure that the national components of flagship programs get priority in their public investment programs,” according to the ADB. “Flagship programs”, it appears, are more important than the Bank‟s forestry policy and in December 1999, the Bank approved a US$32 million loan to Laos and a US$25 million loan to Vietnam to rebuild the roads that are to form the East-West Corridor. Further funding has come from the Japanese government. In June 2000, only five years after it launched its previous policy, the ADB started a review of its forestry policy. In the same year, a Bank official speaking on condition of anonymity told Walden Bello, “Almost all forestry projects have failed - that is well known within the Bank.” This time around, the Bank is not falling into the trap of making promises it cannot keep. While the new draft version of the policy refers to the importance of participation, consultation, gender awareness, poverty reduction, capacity building and environmental security, what is missing from the draft policy is an analysis (or even an awareness) of the impacts that ADB-funded infrastructure projects have had on the people and forests of the region. The new forestry policy, if passed by the Bank‟s board in its current form, would allow the Bank to fund the Nam Theun 2 dam and other massively damaging infrastructure projects, without taking into account the direct and indirect impacts of these projects on forests. By: Chris Lang, e-mail: email@example.com top - Malaysia: The plight of women workers in oil palm plantations Women are more than half --around 30.000-- of the workforce in Malaysian plantations, and have been historically employed as unskilled, temporary contract workers doing the most menial and underpaid jobs. Urbanisation and industrialisation has pushed men and the young to work in the new industrial zones while women stay on and continue to take on any job so that they can have a house and basic amenities provided by the plantation company, which are otherwise beyond their reach. Thus, women have played the dual role of providing cheap labour and social stability. In the early sixties, when synthetic rubber consumption controlled by industrialised countries rose to more than 60 per cent globally, rubber prices dropped sharply. Malaysia rubber plantations could not compete so the plantation sector was under pressure to diversify and introduced oil palm as the alternative crop. The country later became the world's top producer and exporter of palm oil, in a push which has encountered --and still is encountering-- strong opposition from indigenous peoples like those of Sarawak, who defend their traditional lands and forests from the devastating monoculture schemes that allow the country to insert in the global economy but at the cost of depriving the people from their livelihood. 10 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The oil palm crops required more intensive „care‟ from pests and the use of pesticides became a major requirement. Women were recruited as sprayers of pesticides and fertilisers –30,000 women are estimated to be working as such in the country, most of them Indian. The organisation Tenaganita --or Women‟s Force-- has been working with plantation workers since 1991. The compiled information about the work and life of plantation workers and the case studies of their exploitation as women and as workers has allowed the organisation to voice the plight of those women “poisoned and silenced”, in a report produced together with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific (the full report is available at http://www.evb.ch/index.cfm?page_id=1300). The study reveals poor maintenance and leaks in the sprays, poor medical care and first aid facilities on the estate, and in some cases lack of protective equipment. Especially for women, the absence of medical monitoring and a total lack of understanding of how they are affected by these chemicals, make it difficult to assess the extent of the impact of pesticides and chemicals on them, on their reproductive health and on their unborn children. But the impacts are very real. The skin is the body‟s largest organ; 90 per cent of exposure to pesticides occurs through the skin, and women have a thin skin which predisposes them to a high level of absorption of chemicals into the body. Very few women know that the highest absorption point is the genital area. They experience severe vaginal burning sensations after spraying but suffer in silence since they are ashamed to state this problem to the hospital assistants that usually are men, so the problem goes unchecked. The common symptoms of fatigue, back pain, very bad headaches, nausea, giddiness, tightness of the chest, chest pains, swelling breasts, are indicative of exposure to organophosphate and carbamate type of pesticides. Pointing at the accountable players, the report underlines that the owners and the management of the plantations make the decisions on the tasks, the method of spraying, the type of pesticides used, the health care services and the actions taken when a complaint is lodged. The plantation industry has failed to set up safety committees and adhere to the Occupational and Safety Act. And worse, it has not given the workers appropriate information on the poisons they would have to handle and use. Though it is aware of the dangers that these poisons pose, it still continues to use very highly toxic pesticides. However, it has developed strategies so that it will not be made accountable. The industry has structured the task of spraying into the „sub-contractual work‟ category. As such, the workers come directly under the supervision of the sub contractor. Many remain as temporary workers, and in this way the industry has abdicated its responsibility. Its concern is only profits and not the lives of the workers who bring in the wealth to the industry. As for the pesticide industry, though it works closely with the plantation industry without coming directly in contact with the workers, it is responsible to ensure that the pesticides it manufactures and distributes do not poison workers, the public and the environment. However, the industry has not, or has been very slow, in taking action to address these issues, and has often been more vocal in denying that poisoning has taken place. The Pesticide Board and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health are responsible to ensure protection and safety of the workers from poisons. Overall, there is a lack of monitoring of the sale, use and impact of the poisons in the plantations. The weak implementation of the regulations in the plantation sector has led to women workers being poisoned daily. Besides this, health or medical personnel have not been trained effectively to deal with pesticide poisoning and health. Thus the government is equally accountable for the current health crisis of plantation women sprayers. The National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) though comprised by 60% of women, has failed to address the frightening reality of women workers and their daily exposure to poisons. The leadership has bargained for slightly higher wages for sprayers as a „high-risk‟ job. The lack of gender perspective is reflected in the absence of programs for women and lack of women leaders in the Union itself. The hiring of migrant workers, most of them employed as contract labour, is an emerging issue. Activities are often sub-contracted to businesses or agents who supply these contract workers to undertake various jobs on the 11 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 plantation without becoming employees. They are unprotected by all the labour regulations, are highly mobile and face the high risk of being arrested, detained and deported. Thus these workers are also highly vulnerable and face acute risks to their health with no access to medical care or treatment. Eventually, the reduction or prevention of toxicity related to pesticide usage in the country would entail, among other actions, that the use of hazardous compounds such as pesticides is banned and/or severely restricted, alternatives to chemical pest control are promoted in the country, and the gender perspective is integrated in the analysis of the occupational hazards of pesticides. A women organisation has spoken loud. It has given voice to the “silenced” in an effort to counterbalance the harmful effects of a failed production pattern of large scale monoculture plantations which is artificial, insecure, and reinforces women exclusion with no benefit for the people at large. Article based on: “Poisoned and Silenced. A Study of Pesticide Poisoning in the Plantations”, Tenaganita, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com , http://caramasia.gn.apc.org/tn_page0.html ; and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.panap.net/ top - Vietnam starts resettlement to make way for massive Son La dam In Vietnam‟s mountainous northwest, the Son La People‟s Committee has moved the first 52 people of a total of 91,000 that will be forcibly evicted to make way for the massive Son La dam. In March, the authorities moved eight families of indigenous White Thai people to a new site, 200 kilometres from their homes in Muong La district. At least 13 indigenous groups live in the 275 square kilometres that would be flooded by the reservoir behind the dam. The National Assembly gave the go-ahead for the 2,400 MW Son La dam in December 2002. The dam, which is planned to be built 200 kilometres upstream of the existing Hoa Binh dam on the Da River, would be Vietnam‟s largest dam and would require the biggest eviction of people in the country‟s history. The project‟s cost is estimated at US$2.5 billion, of which the Vietnamese government is looking for at least US$750 million from international sources. Electricity of Vietnam hopes to start construction in 2005 and to start generating electricity in 2012. In addition to the 3,000 hectares of forest that the reservoir would drown, the dam would have a major impact on the forests of northwestern Vietnam. Most of the rice paddies in Lau Chau province would be flooded by the reservoir. To provide land for farms and villages for the people evicted from the Da River valley, forest on the hillsides around the reservoir will have to be cleared. Building the dam will require a large amount of timber. During the construction of the downstream Hoa Binh dam, 70 per cent of state timber production from the River Da watershed went to the dam construction site. The Son La project has been intensely debated in Vietnam‟s National Assembly. In May 2000, the National Assembly asked for more information on relocation and compensation plans and for feasibility studies for a scaled-down version of the dam. However, project preparation continued. In August 2001, Vietnamese government officials approved US$660 million for resettlement. On a visit to Lai Chau province, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan told the provincial authorities “to start resettling residents so as to finish relocation work by 2005.” In March 2002, the National Assembly postponed a decision on whether to go ahead with the dam until the end of the year. Mai Thuc Lan, the deputy chairman of the National Assembly, told Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre, “The preparation for the Son La hydropower project has not been done carefully.” 12 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The proposed dam has been studied for more than 30 years. Several international consulting firms have benefited from contracts to produce studies of the Son La dam, including the Moscow Institute of Hydroelectric and Industry, Electricity and Power Distribution Company (Japan), Designing Research and Production Shareholding Company (Moscow) and SWECO (Sweden). Although World Bank officials say that the Bank will not fund the Son La project, it has funded studies on the dam. A World Bank Staff Appraisal Report dated April 1995, states that the Bank funded “engineering studies for the Son La hydropower project”. Four years later, a World Bank study on the energy sector in Vietnam argued that from an economic perspective, “The Son La hydro plant appears promising.” In 1999, a joint venture of SWECO and Harza, a US engineering firm, won a US$1.3 million contract from the Vietnamese government to upgrade the plans to build the Son La dam. Montgomery Watson Harza (as Harza is known since its merger in 2001 with water company Montgomery Watson) is reported to be chasing the project management contract for construction of the dam. Montgomery Watson Harza is also part of the joint venture with Electricité de France that is hoping to build the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos. In 2001, an executive at Montgomery Watson Harza, perhaps frustrated at the National Assembly‟s lengthy decision making process on Son La, told Engineering News Record that Vietnam was “the worst of all worlds.” He added, “They‟ll have to ease up in centralization of control.” One of the biggest concerns about the Son La dam is the fact that it would be located in an earthquake-prone zone. In February and March 2001, earthquakes rocked Lai Chau and Son La provinces. No one was killed in the earthquakes, but the cost of the damage to buildings and roads was estimated at around US$14 million. The Hoa Binh dam, downstream of the proposed Son La dam site on the River Da, was built with financial aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union. Soviet experts warned that major floods could cause the Hoa Binh dam to collapse and recommended building a second dam upstream. The risks are huge. If the Son La dam were to collapse in an earthquake, it would send a huge flood wave down the River Da, threatening first the Hoa Binh dam and then Hanoi, some 300 kilometres away. Dao Van Hung, Director General of Electricity of Vietnam, appears unconcerned about the potential risks of building the dam in an earthquake zone. Voice of Vietnam radio reported that he told the National Assembly in November 2002, “Currently, there are more than 300 hydro-power projects in the world whose dams are between 100 to 350 metres high. The Son La hydro-power plant‟s dam is only 115 metres high. As a result, I think Vietnamese workers and scientists are fully capable and experienced to calculate the volume of construction materials and appropriate structure for the dam to ensure maximum safety.” By: Chris Lang, e-mail: email@example.com top CENTRAL AMERICA - Belize: Another turn of the screw on the Chalillo dam project In November 2001, a Belizean court had ruled in favour of the construction of a hydro-electric dam on the upper Macal river by Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), the majority of which is owned by Fortis, Inc. of St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, (see WRM bulletins 44 and 54). The Belizean government has privatised its electricity industry, just keeping a minority share of BEL. Fortis Inc. is the owner of both the energy distribution company in Belize (Belize Electricity Limited, BEL) and the largest energy supplier in the country (Belize Electricity Company, BECOL). Between Fortis-BEL and Fortis-BECOL, Fortis companies generate 48% of the electricity sold in Belize, with the rest coming from a connection to the power grid in Mexico. 13 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The huge concrete dam known as “Chalillo dam”, is planned to be built across the upper Macal river, designated a "biogem" because of the range of habitats found in the area near the Maya mountains in the south-west of the country. If built, the dam would flood more than 1,000 hectares of the surrounding rain forest --site of many unexcavated Mesoamerican ruins--, destroying the foraging area for jaguars from the nearby reserve, as well as the unique riverbank feeding grounds for the Baird's tapir, Belize's national animal, listed as endangered by the International Conservation Union. The greatest fear of Belizean and international environmental organisations --which have enlisted the support of Hollywood stars Harrison Ford and Cameron Diaz-- is the loss of the Belizean scarlet macaw --a large colourful parrot--, of which there are no more than 150 left in the wild. Fortis already operates another dam in Belize, the Mollejon. When it opened 10 years ago the company claimed it would supply more than enough electricity to meet the growing demands of the 250,000-strong Belizean population without the need for any further construction. A recently completed study of the Macal River shows that the Mollejon dam has probably caused eutrophication on the river. Villagers downstream from the dam have experienced water quality problems and skin rashes since the dam was built. The effects of a second upstream dam could exacerbate these problems. Local people see no benefit from the mega-project but rather harmful impacts on their national heritage and hotspots, which has led to mounting opposition. Local conservationists have been working together with international groups including the Sierra Club of Canada, Probe International, [Newfoundland Group] and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to protect the Macal River Valley. Belizeans also fear that the Chalillo dam would raise energy rates. Fortis commissioned an environmental impact study from Amec, the British construction group. The hired scientists from the Natural History Museum in London concluded that much more work was needed in the region before the dam could proceed, but their recommendations were buried in an annexe of the final 1,500-page report. Colonel Alastair Rogers, a former Royal Marine and co-author of the assessment, now says the dam could be a disaster for the area. "Fortis claims that the bedrock of the area is granite. We believe that the presence of a large amount of porous rock such as limestone could render the dam useless. The forest would be flooded, but the water would drain away. You'd be left with all the negatives and none of the positives." Those opposed to the new dam want the government to support the use of alternative, sustainable energy, such as the use of bagasse, a byproduct of the sugar manufacturing process which was once a major industry in Belize, or to buy in power from neighbouring countries, which could cost less over the long term. The Belize Alliance of Conservation Non-Governmental Organisations (BACONGO) has challenged the project in the court. On March 31, Belize‟s Appeals court finally ruled denying BACONGO‟s challenge. The organisation has announced that it will appeal to the Privy Council in London, the highest court of appeal for cases in the British Commonwealth. BACONGO has also written to the Public Utility Commission of Belize to challenge the illegal status of Fortis‟ Belizian subsidiary, BECOL, which has been operating the existing Mollejan dam on the Macal River without a licence. All electric generators in Belize above 75 kilowatt capacity (BECOL‟s dam is about 3000 times bigger) are required to have a licence. According to Lois Young, the Belizean lawyer for BACONGO, this means that the company was breaking the law and breaking the terms of the original sale contract, with the knowledge of the Belize government. BACONGO also pointed out that the PUC cannot even consider the current application of Fortis/BECOL for permission to build Chalillo dam until BECOL obtains a licence. Under Belizean law, the PUC must fully consider economic, environmental, and social factors and should provide an opportunity for a public hearing. Article based on information from: “Belizean macaws and tapirs threatened by dam project”, Elizabeth Mistry, The Independent, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/environment/story.jsp?story=394439 ; “Canadian dam threatens jaguar habitat”, http://www.ryakuga.org/belize/first.html ; “Fortis Profits at the Expense of Belizeans”, “Belize groups to take Chalillo dam case to Privy Council in England”, Stop Fortis!, http://www.stopfortis.org top 14 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 - Guatemala: Indigenous rights and logging licenses The municipality of Chichicastenango is located in the department of Quiché, one of the most populated departments in the country and the one possessing the greatest number of Maya tongues, such as Uspanteco, Ixil, Sacapulteco, Quekchí and Quiché. To reach this municipality, you have to take a road that goes through steep slopes with sharp turnings and deep ravines, some covered by mixed forests mainly consisting of pine and oak trees. This municipality is located in the country‟s western high plateau and the climate is temperate and cold. In addition to being an important religious centre, it is a strategic point for trade in handicrafts, vegetables, fruit, textiles, woollen goods and animals, among others. One of the largest markets in the country is held there. The forests of Chichicastenango have undergone severe degradation and presently it is only possible to find well-conserved forests in the northern part of the municipality. The rest of the forest ecosystems are fragmented, forming associations of trees with agricultural crops. In this context, it is relevant to analyse the conflict that has arisen over the past few months between the Chichicastenango Indigenous Mayorship and the National Forestry Institute (Instituto Nacional de Bosques – INAB) regarding authorisation for logging licenses. By law, only municipal mayors‟ offices can issue logging permits, and the volume cannot exceed 10 cubic metres per year. Logging operations can only be undertaken within the urban perimeter. Putting into practice the International Labour Organization‟s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the Indigenous Mayorship has taken on the issuing and authorisation of logging permits and licences, which INAB considers to be interfering in its functions, as in this case it would be the issuing of a legal document that in theory should only be issued by this Institute. The Indigenous Mayorship argues that INAB authorises logging permits in excess, with many errors of procedure, such as a lack of verification and follow-up on the number of trees authorised to be logged. It also states that the authorities ignore the rights and regulations governing indigenous society. This conflict has been submitted to the Quiché Executive Justice Committee, a forum for dialogue and consensus, seeking concrete solutions to problems of justice. The Committee has taken on the role of mediator and facilitator between the parties involved endeavouring to reach an agreement. Thus, several dialogue roundtables have taken place, at which stakeholders from civil society, justice authorities, governmental institutions related to environmental issues and protected areas and local authorities have participated, with the aim of finding a solution. As a result, various preliminary agreements and conclusions between the two parties have been reached, and dialogue and discussion has taken place on a crucial issue regarding the present and future welfare of the environment at Chichicastenango. It is hoped that this process will finally end in recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples and in a better management of forest resources in the region. By: Carlos Salvatierra, Colectivo MadreSelva, Guatemala, e-mail: Salvatierra@rocketmail.com top NORTH AMERICA - United States: Kinkos says no to genetically engineered trees Genetic engineering is racing ahead to provide genetically tailored trees designed for commercial plantations with traits such as herbicide resistance, insecticide production, rapid growth and reduced lignin content in trees for commercial convenience. 15 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The attempt to genetically engineer trees is part of a long history of trying to convert diverse ecosystems into single-use production plants. With the Green Revolution introduced in the 50‟s which implied the industrialisation and “commodisation” of agriculture, the sound paradigm of diverse forest management has been increasingly replaced by a pattern which offers no space for forest uses other than wood fibre extraction, the utmost expression of it being large scale monoculture tree plantations. In a step forward, industries together with some governmental authorities and universities have teamed up to make genetically engineered tree plantations a reality. Even though they claim to assess possible environmental impacts, field trials of GE trees are springing up all over the world. These trials are not contained and the impact they have on the environment is unpredictable. The first transgenic species that will be used commercially in plantations are: poplar, pine and eucalyptus. The threats of genetically engineered trees include the loss of millions of acres of native forests, disruptions of insect, bird and wildlife populations, contamination of water and soil, and increased use of herbicides and pesticides. GE trees will also lead to the inevitable and irreversible contamination of native forests with genetically engineered pollen in a perpetual domino effect. From the academic community and the civil society many have voiced strong opposition to this trend. A campaign on genetically engineered trees has been going on since March 2000, organised by Action for Social & Ecological Justice (formerly Native Forest Network's Eastern North American Resource Center) and founding member of the Global Alliance Against Genetically Engineered Trees (GAAGET). Beginning in the fall of 2002, ASEJ held regional strategy sessions in the four regions of the United States most heavily involved in genetically engineered tree research and development. A national strategy session followed where participated groups like Rainforest Action Network, the Dogwood Alliance and Forest Ethics. The purpose of this campaign is to achieve an international ban on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment including test sites and commercial applications. And now, there is some good news. Kinkos, the photocopy giant, announced that it would not align itself with suppliers using genetically engineered trees. This policy is the first of its kind regarding genetically engineered trees and is a groundbreaking step toward the elimination of the severe ecological threats posed by genetically engineered trees. "We laud this decision by Kinkos and congratulate Rainforest Action Network and the Dogwood Alliance on this important victory," said Brad Hash, Campaigner on Genetically Engineered Trees for Action for Social & Ecological Justice, who is confident that this is the beginning of a ripple effect that will be contagious throughout the industry. Action for Social & Ecological Justice will publicly announce its corporate target during the Latin American Solidarity Coalition Conference in Washington, DC during the second week of April. The LASC conference was chosen as the launching point due to the impending threats GE trees pose to Latin American forests and indigenous peoples. The campaign will include national days of action at key locations across the US. Article based on information from: “Kinkos Policy Major Step Toward GE Tree Eradication”, ASEJ Press Release, March 13, 2003, sent by Elizabeth Bravo, Acción Ecológica, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; “ASEJ's Campaign Against Genetically Engineered Trees”, Action for Social and Ecological Justice, e-mail: email@example.com , http://www.asej.org/getrees.html , “GE Trees”, Global Alliance Against GE Trees, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.gaaget.org top SOUTH AMERICA - Argentina: Echoes of the plebiscite against Canadian mining exploitation The streets of the Patagonian town of Esquel still echo with the celebrations held on the resounding victory of “NO” which obtained 81% of the non-binding plebiscite held on 23 March. The monstrous governmental-company propaganda machinery was unable to convince the population to give its support to the exploitation of a gold and 16 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 silver mine, located some 6 kilometres from the town. The most important town in the Chubut cordillera, inhabited by some 30 thousand people, said NO, and Mining Argentina trembled. Both the provincial and municipal governments --in favour of “YES”-- had to announce that they would respect the people‟s will. However, the Federal Mining Council (Consejo Federal Minero – CoFeMin) comprising representatives of the mining provinces ignore the people‟s will and the Canadian mining company, Meridian Gold Inc. has stated that it will not renounce its extractive intentions. In the fervour of victory, on 29 March hundreds of inhabitants of Esquel symbolically closed the access route to the deposits. Furthermore, on 2 April, the local Deliberating Council, promulgated an ordinance declaring Esquel a “Non Toxic and Environmentally Sustainable” Municipality. This ordinance prohibits “industrial and mining activities that use leaching with toxic products or any other technique that requires the use of explosives and toxic inputs, or techniques that release into the atmosphere substances of any kind that on their own or in combination with others, could be toxic and/or noxious to human health, to natural resources as a whole, water, soil, flora, fauna, landscape, sources of conventional and non conventional energy and atmosphere, on the basis of environmental values.” Through this ordinance, the zone of mountains, peaks and edges located within the municipal lands, was declared a Specially Protected Landscape Area, in order to preserve its natural characteristics. For a few days Esquel, a town unknown to millions of Argentines, was the news on the front page of several newspapers. Suddenly it had become incorporated into the global village and the 2000 km separating it from Buenos Aires, seat of political and economic power, had disappeared. Devaluation of Argentine currency has been the signal awaited by companies to start the mining cycle, a new cycle of economy for the country, according to the estimates of the Under-secretariat for Mining. However, the undertaking chosen as a national milestone is resisted by the people. The promotion policy launched in the nineties, with the exploitation of the gold deposits of Bajo La Alumbrera in Catamarca, and Cerro Vanguardia in Santa Cruz, has suffered an unexpected setback. Some sights have already been aimed at the Province of San Juan, located in the central west of Argentina, due to the unrest generated in the population by the contamination of the Valle del Cura area. Following an investigation by the local Mining Council in the Lama gold fields, toxic waste was found buried high up the mountain. According to this body, the Barrick Exploraciones Argentina S.A., a company with Canadian capital, did not fulfil commitments taken on in the Environmental Impact Report and will have to pay a fine of some US$80 thousand. In view of this finding, the “Prensa Geo Minera” publication, linked to interests in the sector, warned a few months ago that “If (Barrick) does not prepare a concrete information programme on environmental protection and relations with the communities, both undertakings (the gold mines at San Juan, Lama and Veladero) could see their implementation endangered, as has happened recently with the gold exploitation project at Esquel, the property of the Meridian Gold company." While in the province of Catamarca, in the Northeast of Argentina, complaints continue against the leaks in the tailings dike at the gold mine at Bajo La Alumbrera. Contamination from acid leaks in the basin of the Vis Vis River could endanger the north of Argentina‟s greatest water reserve. It is true that the Esquel plebiscite does not have any legal force, but it has the enormous power of embodying the people‟s freely expressed feelings against environmental destruction by mining activities. It also represents the feelings of other peoples which are suffering from the impact of mining in Argentina and which now see Esquel as an example to be followed. With their vote in the plebiscite, the inhabitants of Esquel have placed the mining sector in general and a Canadian company in particular, in a very weak situation. 17 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 By: Hernán Scandizzo, e-mail: email@example.com top - Brazil: Social and environmental disaster caused by paper mill In Minas Gerais during the last week-end in March, more precisely during the night of Friday 28 a deposit for chemical products belonging to the paper mill “Industria Cataguazes” collapsed. The mill, close to the city of Cataguazes, is located on the Pomba river, where millions of litres of caustic soda, chlorine and other toxic products used in making paper leaked out. The Pombo River flows into the main river of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the Paraiba do Sul, which was also affected by the contamination. A large patch covered the whole river at the height of the Municipality of Sao Joao da Barra, and moved towards the ocean, contaminating on its way the beaches of Atafona, Grussai and Iquipari. Pictures on television showed the rivers Pomba and Paraiba do Sul covered by a white foam, dead fish floating on the surface and long queues of people waiting for water which was taken to them by truck. It is perhaps the greatest ecological disaster that has ever happened in the country and according to scientists, it will take the ecosystem some 15 years to recover. The spill, estimated at 1,200 million litres of toxic products, affected approximately one million people, and implied that over half a million residents in eight municipalities had no water supply for various days and that for 90 days fishing has been prohibited in the two contaminated rivers. To face the damage that this means to the local fisher-people, the minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, announced that they would receive a monetary compensation of one minimum wage per month during the period that this activity is suspended due to the contamination. There is a second 700 million-litre tank of toxic material belonging to the company that is also a cause for concern as it is not considered to be safe and preventive measures are being taken. Some environmental organisations have placed responsibility on the Government of the State of Minas Gerais, in addition to the company, for omissions in monitoring measures. The mill has been closed down and Federal Justice has decreed preventive imprisonment of the company‟s administrative Director, Felix Santana, and the partner manager, Joao Gregorio do Bem, who may have to face criminal charges. Furthermore, the government announced that it will fine the company for the amount of approximately 15 million dollars. However, it is hard to believe that any figure exists that can compensate for the serious damage, perhaps some of it irreversible, that has been caused to the ecosystem, the economy and the health of the region. During the public audience of the Environmental Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, spoke about the four goals the Ministry is working towards in the next few years: transversality, social monitoring, strengthening of the environmental sector and sustainable development. The Minister stated that a major effort has to be made to avoid environmental policy from being an isolated policy of the Ministry, and to make it into an integrated government action. This is certainly a major challenge, as are all the issues that this disaster brings to the forefront, that are far from being solved and perhaps have not been sufficiently discussed: social and environmental costs, corporate responsibility, social monitoring, environmental policy, sustainability of production models, among others. What was made clear is the weakness of the argument of those who propose self-regulation by the companies in the framework of opening up markets and de-regulation. It is not that the companies ignore environmental issues: most of them boast about their environmental concerns on their web pages. The “Industria Cataguazes de Papel” company itself declares that “environmental preservation through recycling of paper from the major urban centres such as Sao Paulo, Vitoria, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte is the Cataguazes‟ commitment towards society” and it even argues that “each ton of recycled paper avoids logging an average of 20 to 30 eucalyptus trees, or between 16 to 30 native trees.” What will it say now about its “commitment to society”? Sorry? At all events, what is important is to ensure strict monitoring by the 18 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 State and by society as a whole of company activities so that this type of situation is not repeated. The companies may have good intentions, but they are not charities. What interests them above all is their profitability. Society must take up these issues with rigor and without being naive, because the companies adapt to the times and carry out all the necessary marketing to continue with their business. However, “accidents” continue to take place. There have been several samples, how many more are needed? Article based on information from: “Fish, animals and people at risk after caustic soda leak”, 04 Apr 2003, Hannah Hoag, Nature.com, http://www.gristmagazine.com/forward.pl?forward_id=975 ; “Brazil fights spread of toxic spill from factory”, Andrei Khalip, Boston Globe, Reuters, 03 Apr 2003, http://www.gristmagazine.com/forward.pl?forward_id=976 ; “Decretada prisão dos donos da empresa acusada de vazamento de produtos tóxicos en MG”, ambientebrasil.com.br, 03/04/2003, http://www.ambientebrasil.com.br/noticias/index.php3?action=1 ; “Desastre ambiental no Brasil: poluicão do Rio Pomba, EMS-SEMA, http://www.ems-sema.org/portugues/act/03_04_rio.pomba.html ; Información de “Industria Cataguazes de Papel”, http://www.cataguazesdepapel.com.br top - Brazil: The need to avoid eucalyptus causing the same damage in Sao Paulo as it has done in Minas Gerais In spite of the fact that it is one of the country‟s most wretched zones, the Valley of Jequitinhonha in Minas Gerais has been the main and paradigmatic goal of the “citizen caravans” of the candidate Lula --in more than one of his presidential campaigns-- and one of the zones chosen to play the new government‟s strong card --the Hunger Zero plan-- it is odd to note that nothing has been said about the concrete reason (in addition to generic reasons due to socio-economic and perhaps political underdevelopment) that has led this part of the territory of Minas Gerais to such a degraded and economically unsustainable condition. However, some testimonies by representative personalities in the region, during radio interviews on the occasion of the visit by the presidential committee, reported that some 26 years ago the Jequitinhonha was a fertile valley, with many crops and cattle raising and that it started “drying up” due to the substitution of native forests by the indiscriminate plantation of eucalyptus. Faced by the dramatic previsions of the UNESCO report on the diminishing of springs over the next 20 years --a report submitted to the 3rd World Water Forum held in Kyoto-- and facing the possibility that all the remnants of biodiversity will be damaged, together with the water resources available to supply the largest (and most important) Brazilian city, it would be valuable to discuss the risks of the rapid and on-going substitution of riparian native forests by eucalyptus plantations in the municipalities close to the city, such as Nazaré Paulista --where the Atibainha dam is located, the main spring of the Cantareira System-- Piracaia, Joanopolis and others. Because in this zone, mainly over the past five years, a beautiful and varied native vegetation that harbours natural springs, streams and small rivers and is the habitat of a wealth of wildlife, has given way to monotonous lines of identical trees, that have nothing to attract birds --or any other species of fauna-- and that are quickly cut down to be used as firewood. Only a few areas are left that have resisted illegal logging or the sterile “reforestation” of eucalyptus “cultivation.” These are not trees benefiting the cellulose industry --as the zone does not have one nor would it be feasible due to its characteristics-- and still less do such plantations respond to technical criteria for the redistribution and/or preservation of a percentage of native forests. It is only wood that has drunk a lot of water, but that can only be used as firewood… In the old controversy over the environmental effects of eucalyptus plantations, in spite of the arguments --generally based on scientific work sponsored by major companies that industrially exploit this tree-- endeavouring to present as simple “myths” the damage caused by eucalyptus to soil fertility and to springs, ample bibliography exists proving at least three basic aspects: this tree‟s high demand for water can deplete ground humidity and harm ground-water recharge, destabilizing the water cycle; the great intake of nutrients by the roots can generate a major deficit in the soil and destabilize the nutrient cycle; the release of chemical substances --or alelopathic effects on the micro-flora-- can alter plant and micro-organism growth and further reduce soil fertility. 19 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and many other international bodies, in addition to universities and European, Indian, Australian and South African scientific institutes, have discussed the issue at length, but very often environmental concerns clash with the interests of industrial groups that rely on this tree of Australian origin, which started to be grown in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century (and in Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century). Already in 1887, there were reports in South Africa --one of the first countries to establish large-scale eucalyptus plantations-- testifying that the climate of the country was becoming dryer, the previously abundant water sources were decreasing and the watercourses were becoming intermittent. One hundred years later, in 1987, the Portuguese author, Antero Gonçalves wrote a book with the title of “Eucalyptus and Man,” in which he states: “It is not worth continuing to repeat that the eucalyptus is against human beings, it is against the land, it is against water, it is against everything. It is hard to understand how the people in the countryside accept tranquilly and quietly that the best arable lands are corrupted by the infernal globule [Eucalyptus globulus] that threatens to turn us into a desert.” In Spain a movement exists promoting the plantation of native species, called the Phoracantha Club, in homage to the beetle [the longhorned borer] that destroys eucalyptus trees. It is not without reason that the laws of many countries restrict this type of plantation. In Brazil, a law has been adopted in Espirito Santo, prohibiting new plantations of eucalyptus in this state. It would be advisable for Sao Paulo to also establish similar restrictions, at least in areas with important springs, such as the one mentioned above, and thus avoid witnessing in a few years time the still diversified (and not desertified) parts of the Nazare Paulista vegetation --with its native forests, its natural springs, its birds, its monkeys and even wildcats, at only one hour from the capital-- converted into a desolated Jequitinhonha that only lends itself to the visit of tearful caravans of future presidential campaigns, while in Sao Paulo we will have to buy drinking water at the price of gold (or of clean air). By: Mauro Chaves, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, accessed from: Biodiversidad en América Latina, http://www.biodiversidadla.org/prensa8/prensa962.htm top - Uruguay: Inhuman working conditions at a Chilean forestry company plantation The forestry plan promoted by the Government --based on large monoculture tree plantations of eucalyptus and pine-- promised large profits to the country, among which employment generation. Not only has this objective not been accomplished, but it has also been seen that the scant employment generated is usually temporary and under working conditions that in general leave much to be desired. The events that took place at the beginning of this month are a clear demonstration of what environmental organizations have long been denouncing. The big difference this time is that the complaint was lodged by a Government official. Following a complaint, the National Customs Office carried out an inspection of a forestry company in the Department of Rivera (in the northeast of Uruguay, bordering with Brazil). The forestry company in question turned out to be Forestal Cono Sur S.A., owning some 26,000 hectares of pine plantations in Uruguay. However, 99% of its shares belong to Forestal Cholguán, which in turn is a subsidiary company of the gigantic Chilean corporation, Arauco that in its home country owns 906,033 hectares of plantations, and against which the Mapuche people have undertaken a bitter fight because the company has appropriated much of their territories. The complaint was related to the existence of forestry machinery presumably in breach with the customs, that is to say, machinery that had entered the country without paying the corresponding taxes. Great was the surprise of Victor Lissidini, National Customs Director, when he reached the establishment. In addition to confiscating machinery for a value of approximately US$ 300,000, 40 mattresses were found, thrown on the floor, and following a brief reconnaissance, he was able to see that fifty Brazilian undocumented labourers worked there, living in inhuman conditions. 20 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 The labourers had been hired by a Brazilian company, which in turn had been hired by the Chilean company to carry out plantation work. The Customs Director explained that the report by the writ-servers from Rivera, set out that the workers slept on the floor, eat leftovers, dressed in rags and in several cases had injuries that had not received adequate medical treatment. “They were living practically under a regime of slavery,” he stated. According to press reports, people from the area have affirmed that it is normal for large companies, mainly engaged in tree plantations, to hire Brazilians to work as “moonlight workers” (that is, without complying with the labour regulations in force), keeping them under miserable conditions. These working conditions are to be found in the framework of companies owning plantations that carry out most of their activities (from plantation to harvesting) almost exclusively through hiring forestry service companies. These companies are frequently of a hard to control and informal nature, in which one of the most widespread forms of competition is tax evasion and non-compliance with labour laws. Forestry service companies are gaining increasing protagonism and are key to “cost-efficiency.” Given that, in spite of being strongly subsidised, forestry activities do not give rise to considerable profits (the market price of logs that the country exports is very low), in order to make them profitable the forestry companies establish very low prices when outsourcing. The outsourced companies --which obviously want to make their own profits-- transfer these low prices to the last link in the chain…the worker. Although it is true that some forestry companies do control the quality of the companies hired, this is rather the exception than the rule and in general these are companies which have an image to look after and to cultivate, or which have comparative advantages on the international market. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? There is no doubt that a large part of the responsibility falls on the companies, which in their eagerness to obtain profits do not hesitate to submit workers to inhuman working conditions. However, in the end, it is the State that must establish and enforce compliance with the rules of the game. The situation shows that the State so far has been an accomplice to the violation of labour legislation. The former president of Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle (who was a great promoter of plantations) already fostered this activity, highlighting the cheapness of labour in this country. The President of Uruguay, Jorge Batlle, when he took up office, travelled to Santiago, Chile and held meetings with Chilean forestry companies. During these meetings, he exhorted Chilean investors to invest in plantations in Uruguay. It has shown to be one of the few occasions in which the President (of a country that has fallen into the greatest crisis in its history during his government) was successful. The Chileans did invest and the result is now to be seen. It is important that the Uruguayan people are aware about the implications of this type of “development.” However, it is equally important that the world should perceive that what is now being denounced in Uruguay, takes place in practically all the countries of the South where these large-scale plantations are installed. Outsourced labour is already the standard in all of them, be they Brazil or South Africa or Chile or Argentina. International competition takes place by lowering costs and in all cases, the main mechanism for raw material (timber) to continue cheap does not lie in technologies or in the speed of growth (which are similar in all the cases) nor even in the subsidies (which are also similar), but fundamentally in reducing the cost of labour. This is at the cost of the living and working conditions of plantation workers. Monoculture tree plantations have already clearly shown that they are environmentally unsustainable. They have also shown that they do not solve, but on the contrary, only worsen social problems. Why are they still being promoted? Article based on information from: the newspaper Ultimas Noticias, http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.uy ; “Plantaciones forestales en la pradera uruguaya”, Carlos Pérez Arrarte, http://www.wrm.org.uy/guayubira/plantaciones/pradera.htm ; top 21 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 OCEANIA - Papua New Guinea: Malaysian companies logging out the forest Official figures from the PNG Forest Authority show that between 1993 and 2001 a total of 20 million cubic meters of logs were exported from PNG. If all those logs were laid side by side they would stretch for over 1,000 kilometres. If they were laid end to end they would stretch for 7,000 kilometres. In the last 10 years most of the logs have been taken from West New Britain but now those forests are almost gone. Now the logging companies in PNG --most of them Malaysian-- are getting most of their logs from Western and Gulf Provinces. The clear-felling of large forest areas and the ensuing erosion and environmental damage have been decried by PNG Minister for Welfare and Social Development, Lady Carol Kidu. She said that under the guise of inevitable globalisation, logging companies from countries that have themselves imposed environmental restrictions on the industry, were pushing their way further into the forests exploiting the need of impoverished traditional landowners. The Minister also raised the negative impact of logging on women. “Women have not been visible at the negotiating table and yet it is the women carrying the burden of the negative social and environmental effects. Working conditions in the logging industry have been exposed by Western Province Governor Bob Danaya. After a visit to the logging operations of Concord Pacific and Rimbunam Hijau, he declared: “When you look around in the villages there are no tangible benefits that one can witness. And the workers on the barges are virtually working like slaves in very poor conditions”. Western Province has seen a lot of controversy in recent months with allegations of illegal logging by Concord Pacific and Rimbunam Hijau. The Ombudsman Commission has also recommended the dismissal of the National Board Chairperson Dr. Wari Iamo, following an investigation into his attempts to give the huge Kamula Dosa logging permit in Western Province to Rimbunam Hijau in 1999, avoiding public tendering. As Lady Kidu has warned: “It is estimated that PNG will be completely logged out in the next decade if we do not take control of the industry in a sustainable way”. Article based on information from: “Komunity Bus Nius”, Issue 1, September/October 2002, sent by Timothy King, e-mail: email@example.com top PLANTATIONS DEBATE - Do you believe in Planted Forests? Have you ever seen “Ghost Busters”, the movie? Thanks to the magic of movies, that silly story, perhaps the brainchild of a superstitious youngster became a motion picture. Many kids and a few adults maybe even believed for a moment that ghosts are for real. This is pretty close to what happened in New Zealand, at the “Experts Meeting on Planted Forests”. To many of us, this is just absurd, planted forests do not exist. But, is that a reason for not being scared? - Well, I don‟t know what I saw, but I was scared! 22 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 This is a very usual statement by fellow mortals when facing a ghost in the middle of a desolate place, usually, an old Indian cemetery taken over by “civilization”, or things like that. - “Of course, I‟m scared; we don‟t have this in my culture!” This is pretty close to how an aboriginal colleague felt when listening to some of the interventions at the Experts Meeting. “I don‟t know what „planted forests‟ are, but they look pretty awful!” He added. To me they too seemed pretty creepy, in spite of all my baggage of western culture and education and training that should prepare me to comprehend them. Objectively, I made an effort to place them in this world as forests. But, the harder I tried, the more they looked like plantations, in the stricter of meanings, comparable to the most conventional of modern agricultural practices and with all the same destructive potential accrued from their speculative nature. - “C‟mon Miguel, open your mind! - I‟ve heard the conciliatory voice of a friend working with an international organization - if you call them plantations, they (plantations‟ owners) won‟t improve their practices and won‟t go for certification!”, he moaned. I didn‟t take that so seriously as I‟ve heard from plantation company executives that they haven‟t changed their routine practices to get FSC certification, anyway. But the fact is that ghosts are not as dreadful as large-scale tree monocultures. You can deal with ghosts at an imaginary level. Plantations are real and spreading as pests, replacing forests, savannas, prairies, swamps, deserts and many other valuable environments. In many cases, they also expand at the expense of people‟s livelihoods. This is what I call creepy! - “So my friend, - a participant from the Middle East inquired – do you think plantations are as bad as a bunch of trigger-happy Western soldiers shooting at everything that moves?” No, of course not. They don‟t shoot at you, they are less bloody than that, but now they‟re also planting them for the sake of oil! Gladly, the meeting at least recognized that there are negative sides to plantations. Although, they insisted in proving the improbable: that plantations, in general, are part of a continuum of forest types. Hey… this is what we call fragmentation, ecological disruption, and land-use conversion! - “Well, it's all a matter of definitions.” An expert told me. Look, if you use the FAO definition, as I think everybody should, we‟ll expand the forest cover by far!” - “This is the problem; we‟re talking about different things here.” I replied. “What people call a ghost is just a figment of their imaginations, and in your imagination a plantation is a forest. You shouldn‟t allow your fantasies to blindfold you.” Nevertheless, some experts made some concessions and recognized that large-scale tree mono-crops are quite different from small mixed-species community-driven plantations, and even more from forests. But the overwhelming belief among experts is that as trees are the dominating beings in both, forests and plantations, they‟re both forests, and defining them is just a semantic issue. Well, so much for semantics when subsidies and public funding are at stake. At that point, the opportunities for companies to plant large sways of monocultures instead of creating systems comparable to original local forest types are weighed. The results will almost always favour the big and easy monocultures, as companies exist for profit and not for anything else. 23 WRM BULLETIN # 69 April 2003 Another ghostly concept emanated from a few of the presentations and that kept floating around at the meeting, was that sustainability means eternal ever-growing consumption. You got to believe in ghosts to believe this one, especially when it‟s known that at least a half of all the paper consumption goes to junk-mail and packaging, and more than three quarters of the global deforestation is due to conversion to plantations of all sorts! Now, that‟s the ultimate woe! Who’re ya gonna call? Plantations busters like in the movies? Well, this isn‟t a movie, it‟s real life and it‟s not possible to bring a huge vacuum cleaner to get rid of large-scale monocultural plantations. No one denies the current deficit of trees and the quasi-criminal deforestation process waged for the sake of wasteful consumption. Though, as seen throughout the history of deforestation, I dispute that by simply planting enormous ever-enlarging areas of monocultures we‟re going to halt deforestation and do any justice to forest peoples. Solutions to deforestation should start by recognizing the real role forests play in giving life to the Planet and by respecting the rights of forest peoples. Yet, I know for some people this is much more terrifying than any ghost. By: Miguel Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org top 24