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 # 74
In this issue:
* OUR VIEWPOINT
- Winds of change 2
* LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS
- Cameroon: Rainforests continue to be logged illegally 3
- Kenya: A simple wasp adds a further problem to Eucalyptus 4
- South Africa: Sustainability, Protected Areas, and Development 5
- Uganda: Deforestation, corruption and the false solution of plantations 6
- ADB’s draft forest policy: The politics of participation 7
- Cambodia: Rubber plantation, deforestation and corruption 8
- Laos: Vietnamese consortium plans to build six dams 10
- Thailand: Assassinated Village Conservationist 11
- Honduras: International delegation documents serious problems in Olancho 12
- Nicaragua: Canadian mining company accused of cyanide spill 14
- Mexico: The loss of forests for the community and for women 16
- Bolivia: Protected areas at the disposal of oil companies 17
- Brazil: Women’s working conditions in tree plantations 18
- Peru: Ex-Im Bank rejects funding Camisea Project 19
- Uruguay: Semi-slave work in plantation forestry 20
- Australia: Certified Forests - the end to Forest Conflict? 22
- Papua New Guinea: Oil palm "joint venture" for the benefit of rich companies 23
* THE CARBON SHOP FILES
- Indigenous Peoples and Climate Negotiations 24
- Land Grab in Uganda in Preparation for CDM Sinks Projects? 25
- Plantar: World Bank acknowledges spreading incorrect allegations 26
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
- Winds of change
The month of September has certainly been rich in important events, warranting the active participation of
relevant social actors. The ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Cancun, Mexico, was
doubtlessly the most resounding one, both because of the presence of thousands of people and organizations
from all over the world, demonstrating in the streets against the WTO, and because of the firm attitude of some
countries from the South, in facing the domineering attitude of certain governments from the North. The world will
never be the same after Cancun.
Although at a different level, another important event in September was the World Parks Congress, held in
Durban, South Africa. For many years, narrow conservationism served to deprive local populations of their
ancestral forests, with the excuse of conservation. However, a growing movement for change is permeating the
way of thinking of conservation, which is starting to identify solutions based on recognition of the rights and
knowledge of the Indigenous peoples and local communities. Numerous Indigenous representatives, together
with their allies were present at Durban, attempting to strengthen this new conception of conservation.
Finally, the third international event taking place in September, was the World Forestry Congress, in Quebec City,
Canada. Here too, numerous representatives of civil society were present, seeking to influence mainstream
forestry thinking, increasingly isolated in an obsolete vision of forests and forest management, but still reluctant to
adapt to new times.
Beyond the differences between the three briefly mentioned events, what is interesting to note is what they have
in common regarding civil society participation: the defence of local community interests through measures no
longer restricted to traditional lobbying, but which increasingly turn to the streets or to external or parallel events,
with the aim of generating opportunities to voice positions that are scantly expressed at the level of official
delegates but that are strongly felt at the level of public opinion.
Looking forwards, we hope that these winds of change will also be felt in the climate negotiations to take place in
Milan at the beginning of December. We hope that the shameful carbon market that the Convention on Climatic
Change has turned into, will be swept away by the wind and substituted by an appropriate environment in which
to address the necessary solutions.
We hope that the extraordinary high temperatures suffered in the past European summer will at least serve for
governments to take the issue of climate change more seriously. We also hope that the widespread forest fires
that covered Europe will serve to show how absurd it is to try to use trees as “carbon sinks” to counteract global
warming. The whole world saw on televised news how European forests and plantations released into the
atmosphere in a few hours all the carbon accumulated by their biomass over years. If this happens in the
technically advanced North, it will certainly happen in the countries of the South. This is --literally-- playing with
However, perhaps the most outstanding feature of what is happening in the world, is the increasing union of all
the struggles against a model that has already shown itself to be socially and environmentally unsustainable.
Peasants, Indigenous peoples, workers, environmentalists, social and human rights movements, are only some of
the actors in a world where fraternity, solidarity and human dignity are becoming global. The winds of change
blow with increasing strength.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS
- Cameroon: Rainforests continue to be logged illegally
From October 13th to 16th the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance ministerial meeting will take place
in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Whether this initiative will result in any concrete actions to tackle the immense problem of
illegal and unsustainable logging operations in Africa remains to be seen. In the meantime, illegal logging in
Cameroon’s forests continues to wreak havoc on the environment, economy and local peoples’ livelihoods.
The abuse of the legal logging licences known as "ventes de coupe" to launder illegal timber into the market place
is being systematically perpetrated in the country, including by subsidiaries of European companies. Ventes de
coupe are titles to log an area of 2,500 hectares of the non-permanent forest estate over a three year period. Due
to the short-term nature of the title, and the lack of requirement for any management plan, the forests are often
logged in a highly destructive manner. The titles are also frequently abused to organise illegal logging over a
much larger area.
In March 2003, researchers from Forests Monitor, together with the Cameroonian NGO Centre pour
l’Environnement et le Developpement (CED) and Greenpeace, investigated the operations of two Dutch
companies, Wijma and Reef, in the forests of South and Southwest Provinces. This was the second time Forests
Monitor and Greenpeace had investigated the operations of Wijma, having discovered widespread illegal logging
by the company in July 2002 (see http://www.forestsmonitor.org). The company has been sanctioned by the
government on several occasions for logging illegally. Illegal logging by these European-headquartered
companies has caused environmental and social damage locally, as well as robbing the Cameroonian
government and communities of legitimate timber revenues.
The Dutch logger and timber importer Wijma claims to be committed to "full compliance with all relevant forest
regulations" in Africa and "to achieving environmental best practice throughout its activity whenever this is
practical". Despite these claims, in March 2003 investigators from Forests Monitor, CED and Greenpeace
documented further evidence of the company’s illegal activities in Cameroon. The investigations uncovered
serious abuses of the company’s legally allocated logging title vente de coupe 09-04-59, situated in the
department of the Ntem valley in South Province, which Wijma exploited in 2001. Using a GPS receiver, the
NGOs recorded two extensive road networks to the East and South of the legal logging area, 11 log ponds and
abandoned logs and stumps over an area of about 14 km2 outside Wijma’s legal boundaries. Abandoned logs
with the markings of the legal title 09-04-59 and the company’s markings (GWZ) were found in log ponds well
outside their official limits, a clear method of laundering illegal timber into the marketplace. The investigators also
found that the company had illegally logged significant amounts of timber from an unallocated forest management
unit UFA 09-022. As well as the lost timber revenues to the government and communities, this illegal logging
operation had serious consequences for local people, with illegal road construction and logging having destroyed
agricultural crops and small-scale plantations cultivated by the local farmers. At least 27 local farmers in three
villages were affected, with immediate consequences for local livelihoods as both food and cash crops were
Reef is a Dutch company specialising in the production of wood for marine construction. It prides itself on its
environmental reputation and is a founder member of the FSC-Netherlands. However, in March 2003 Forests
Monitor, CED and Greenpeace found illegal logging operations in Reef’s ventes de coupe (VC) 11-06-12 and 11-
06-13 in the Southwest province of Cameroon. In VC 11-06-12, Reef works with the Cameroonian company
SEPFCO. Forests Monitor, CED and Greenpeace investigators found a road network about 5 kilometres away
from the legal logging area, with 6 log ponds along the illegal roads. Logs carrying the markings of the legal title
were found in the log ponds, indicating fraudulent use well outside the legal logging limits. In addition, numerous
plantations were destroyed by the illegal logging operation. In VC 11-06-13, the villagers of Molongo, situated
inside the vente de coupe, had erected traditional barriers to stop logging in protest at Reef and partner PMF
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
Wood’s failure to keep promises made: they had promised to build substantial bridges that could be used by
villagers after the logging operation had finished, but instead had constructed temporary bridges that would last
just long enough to evacuate the logs; they had promised to build several good roads; they had promised to
provide materials for the construction of a village community hall, church and school. The one road that the village
had itself invested in was destroyed by the logging operations, rendering it impassable by car and even on foot in
the rainy season. Local farmers’ cocoa plantations had also been destroyed by the logging operation. In addition,
investigators found a log pond outside the southern boundary of the vente de coupe containing several logs
fraudulently marked with the legal logging title.
In both the Wijma and Reef cases above, not only was there evidence of logging outside permitted areas and the
fraudulent use of legal logging titles to launder illegally felled timber into the market place, operations also caused
severe hardship for local communities, destroying subsistence and cash crops. To make matters worse, promises
of infrastructure developments that had been made were unfulfilled, and local revenues had not been paid. In
such cases, logging operations exacerbate poverty amongst local communities as well as robbing the government
of Cameroon of timber revenues. The NGOs have used the evidence gathered to press the companies to pay full
and immediate compensation to all the local farmers and communities whose livelihoods have been damaged by
these operations, with Reef having now made an initial payment into the Molongo village fund. The NGOs have
also urged the Cameroonian government to take appropriate measures to sanction the companies.
By: Forests Monitor, e-mail: email@example.com
- Kenya: A simple wasp adds a further problem to Eucalyptus
Kenya is a semi-arid country and is classified among countries affected by chronic water scarcity in both its urban
and rural areas. Within such context, the planting of eucalyptus trees appears to be suicidal. And it certainly is.
Less than 2 percent of Kenya’s total land surface is now under forest cover. However, its significance is
enormous, since forests in mountainous areas shelter the headwaters of Kenya’s major rivers and exercise a
natural regulatory control over the river flow. Without them, siltation and flooding will increase, affecting millions of
Kenyans. The severe drought from 1998 to 2000 has been partially attributed to the country's disappearing forest
Indeed, forests have been shrinking. Logging and conversion of natural forests into agricultural land can be
identified as direct causes of deforestation, while there are also underlying causes including export-driven
agriculture schemes, the liberalization process --that has put a lot of emphasis on the privatization of public land
and forests resulting in the non recognition of customary resource tenure-- structural adjustment programmes
increasing pressure to exhaust natural resources, political interests resulting in forest excisions by the
government to buy political patronage.
To counter the problem, Kenya established significant areas of tree plantations during the 1970s and 1980s.
However, much of the effort was geared to fast-growing alien tree species, which were planted in large scale
projects by government and non-governmental programmes with the eucalyptus as favourite.
However, the negative impacts of such plantations --which worsened along the large-scale pattern-- soon became
evident for the people of Kenya. In fact, impacts on water became so obvious that one of the Kikuyu names for
eucalyptus (munyua maai), means the "drinker of water". Even some government officials, like the District Forest
Officer of Kakamega, Ms Monica Kalenda, have acknowledged that planting of eucalyptus trees in water
catchment areas and along rivers had led to drying up of many feeder rivers in the province. There are areas on
the outskirts of the Kakamega forest where the trees have virtually led to the drying up of many streams.
To make matters worse, an exotic pest, identified as the gall-forming wasp, Blue Gum Chalcid (Ophelimus
eucalypti), is currently threatening eucalyptus trees in Western Kenya. The Kenya Forestry Research Institute
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
(KEFRI) said the pest has badly damaged young trees and nursery seedlings in parts of Vihiga, Busia and
Kisumu districts. The pest's origin was identified as Australia, the home of eucalyptus. It has also been recorded
to attack eucalyptus species in other countries like Morocco, Iran, Israel and Italy.
In sum, monoculture eucalyptus plantations not only impact on the environment but are themselves prone to pest
infestations resulting from them being large-scale monocultures. The "technical solution" to the problem would be
the widespread spraying of pesticides, which would further impact on people and the environment. The real
solution will obviously imply a totally different approach to tree plantations, based on the locally-agreed upon use
of a diversity of species having positive social and environmental impacts.
Article based on information from: “Pest Alert”, Kenya Forestry Research Institute,
http://www.kefri.org/announcement.htm ; “Kefri identifies pest affecting Eucalyptus in western Kenya”, Kenya
Forests Working Group, http://www.kenyaforests.org/kefri_pest.htm ; “Residents cautioned against Eucalyptus”,
Francis Nzaywa, East African Standard, April 10, 2003 ,
- South Africa: Sustainability, Protected Areas, and Development
The term "sustainability", which also means "maintainability" is readily and loosely used nowadays and is often
quoted as the "magic buzzword" whenever politicians and entrepreneurs alike wish to gain easy acceptance for a
proposed development or programme. However, when one takes a closer look at the notion of sustainable
development ("economic activity that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs") and at our track record in terms of natural resource use, the truth is that we
are still very far off from achieving "sustainability".
A retrospective evaluation of conservation and sustainable development projects shows that most have not
achieved successful conservation nor sustainability and do not address human needs.
At the first "Earth Summit" (Rio 92) the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, declared
themselves conscious of the importance of biological diversity for evolution and for maintaining life-sustaining
systems of the biosphere. Also, one of the most significant achievements of the Rio Summit was the laying down
of the Precautionary Principle as a universal guideline for consideration of any action that "may" harm biological
Sadly, ten years later, at the second World Summit for Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002) it was
recognised that we are still failing with regard to achieving sustainability! Commitments were again made,
amongst other things, to reduce biodiversity loss and reverse the current trend in natural resource degradation.
Looking at the situation at South Africa, an estimated 10% of South Africa's mammal species are threatened, 2%
of our bird species, 12% of our reptile species, 16% of amphibians and 36% of our freshwater fish species. The
total number of threatened plant taxa approximately doubled between 1980 and 1995 and the trend is that the
topsoil continues to be lost and virgin land is subject to "development schemes" at an alarming rate. Tourism and
recreation are recognised amongst the list of threats to biodiversity and wilderness! The Tourism Programme of
the United Nations Environment Programme states: "In fact, it (tourism) can be compared in its deleterious
impacts and environmental risks to any other major industry."
The global norm for conservation is for countries to set aside at least 10% of the land for conservation. In South
Africa, about 6% of the land is formally protected for conservation purposes. However, even that approach has
not gone without destruction. Examples are widespread as a historical consequence of the country's 178 national
parks and reserves. As Mavuso Msimang, Chief Executive of National Parks in South Africa has written, "Most of
our wilderness areas were not empty of people and the establishment of national parks often involved the
dispossession, removal, exclusion and social dislocation of indigenous communities". Examples include the
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
pastoral inhabitants of Namaqualand in the western Cape exiled from the Namakwalandse Burgersvereniging
facility, several thousand victims of the Tsitsikama forestry reserves in the eastern Cape, and the vast Kruger
National Park, over 2 million ha in size, which exceeds the state of Israel and was subject to several waves of
removal over the past century.
The broad definition of the environment includes the natural, economic, and social and political environments in
which we move and reside. The limited, unequally distributed, resources of the world cannot cope with the
present globalised pattern of consumption. Policy-makers make development decisions and these are primarily
driven by immediate and short term (very occasionally medium term) social, economic and/or political needs and
wants. The very long term --in fact, timeless-- needs of nature, including animals, plants, soil and future
generations of people, fail to be taken adequately into account.
The time is overdue for some solid commitment to the physical and biophysical environment through
demonstrable application of the precautionary principle. Even within the framework of the set conservation goals,
a quick look at the maps of the National Parks and other important conservation areas such as the Greater St
Lucia and the Drakensberg Parks, show that development, "subdivision" and privatization have taken place at a
dramatic rate over the last twenty years or so and that it has escalated beyond acceptable proportions. Moreover,
"sustainability" has first to get right on the 94% of the land in South Africa that has the primary purpose of making
money (including many high intensity private game reserves and lodges).
It is a moral and ethical obligation towards the next generation. They must be left with some options of their own
and the present generation has not the right, nor any longer the excuse of ignorance, to deprive them any further.
Article based on information from: "Viewpoint - Protected Areas and Sustainability", sent by Philip Owen,
Geasphere, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; http://www.geasphere.co.za ; "Rethinking Land Reform in South Africa: An
Alternative Approach to Environmental Justice", Charles Geisler and Essy Letsoalo, 2000,
- Uganda: Deforestation, corruption and the false solution of plantations
The acting commissioner for forestry, Deo Byarugaba, said a recent study by the forestry department revealed
that indiscriminate logging and charcoal burning had destroyed hundreds of square miles of forest land.
Following the alarming rate of deforestation, and a public outcry that most vehicles carrying timber had army and
police escorts, President Yoweri Museveni in May appointed Capt. James Okello as commandant of a Forest
Produce Monitoring Unit (FPMU), charged with empowering the forestry staff which falls under the Ministry of
Water, Lands and Environment. The swift activities of FPMU has since found out that those perpetuating the
racket also include forestry officials, police, district councils, MPs, Movement leaders and Internal Security
Organisation (ISO) personnel.
Among top government officials whose vehicles or employees were recently cited in the timber/firewood deal
were the energy and mineral development minister, Syda Bbumba and justice and constitutional affairs minister
Military officers who have recently been either directly involved or whose vehicles and employees were implicated
are the commandant of the Nakasongola-based UP-DF motorised brigade, Col. Samuel Kawagga and Reserve
Force commander Lt. Gen. Salim Saleh's aide, Lt. Col. Kagezi.
Forestry officials said the district with the worst forest destruction record is Mukono and it has been established
that most of the logs in the timber sheds there had been illegally acquired. Sources said FPMU found difficulty in
arresting illegal timber dealers in Mukono because some said they were encouraged to continue with the trade by
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
However, the solution coming from Byarugaba is as worrisome as the problem: "The way forward is to
commercialize tree planting. My department is now looking for investors to plant trees for value. We allocate land
to prospective investors who grow trees and harvest them for sell," he declared.
What Byarugaba appears to ignore is the existing experience regarding the impacts of tree plantations.
Norwegian carbon sink plantation projects --which began to be implemented in Uganda in 1996-- have implied the
eviction of hundreds of village people to make way for plantation trees. One of those projects implied the
occupation of between 80,000 and 100,000 hectares of land by pines and eucalyptus (see WRM Bulletin Nº 35).
Within that context, commissioner Byarugaba's declarations appear to be paving the way for further foreign
investments in the plantation sector. Tree plantations will not only not solve the existing problems, but will
generate new impacts on forests, water, soils, biodiversity and people. It is therefore absurd to portray them as a
solution to the real problem of deforestation. But maybe Byarugaba has a reason?
Article based on information from: "Ministers, Army Bosses Named in Timber Scam", Emmy Allio and Felix Osike,
New Vision (Kampala), August 25, 2003, http://allafrica.com/stories/200308250672.html
- ADB’s draft forest policy: The politics of participation
Tadao Chino, the President of the Asian Development Bank knows what civil society wants from his Bank. During
the ADB’s 2001 Annual General Meeting in Hawai’i, President Chino accepted a statement, "People’s Challenge
to the ADB", signed by 68 NGOs. The statement included the demand that "Directions for future policies and
practices must emerge from public debates and discussions, and not through closed-door negotiations among
elite groups of ADB management, national and government elites and technical ‘experts’."
President Chino promised that the views of the NGOs "would be taken into account". Unfortunately, in its
preparation of its proposed new forest policy, the Bank seems to have forgotten the President’s promise.
The Bank claims that it consulted with more than 500 people during workshops in Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Philippines and Sri Lanka. In February 2002, when the Bank produced a draft of its new forest policy, 140 people
attended a workshop at Bank headquarters in Manila. Before the Manila workshop, the Bank sent its "draft
strategic framework" to "about 12 forestry experts . . . for review and comment".
These "experts", of course, were selected by the Bank. Once the Bank’s draft forest policy appeared, any
pretence of public debate disappeared. "Formal external consultation process was concluded with the February
2002 Regional Consultation," explained Jan P.M. van Heeswijk, Director General of the Regional and Sustainable
Development Department at the ADB. "The internal review process is still underway," van Heeswijk added.
This internal review process is precisely the type of elite, closed-door negotiations that the NGOs in Hawai’i were
keen to avoid.
The shortcomings of the Bank’s latest draft forest policy, dated June 2003, are illustrated by its uncritical support
of industrial tree plantations. Indeed, one of the objectives of the Bank’s new policy is to "increase the extent and
productivity of plantations".
A monoculture eucalyptus plantation, consisting of vast blocks of same-aged trees which are clearcut every five
years, has more in common with an agricultural crop than with a forest. Yet the Bank defines a plantation as a
"forest established by planting and/or seeding in the process of afforestation or reforestation".
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
A forest is defined in the draft as "an ecosystem with a minimum of 10% crown cover of trees and/or other
wooded land/bamboos generally associated with wild flora, fauna, and natural soil conditions and not subject to
agriculture." But when it comes to protecting forests from conversion to plantations, the draft states, "ADB will not
provide assistance for plantations in natural forest areas with more than 40% crown density."
Thus a forest with 39% crown density is afforded no protection. No explanation is given for the sudden increase in
the minimum crown cover from 10% to 40%, although this is a significant weakening of the protection afforded by
Even worse, the draft policy gives a green light to all forest-destroying projects, by allowing Bank consultants and
staff to decide that deforestation or forest degradation cannot be avoided. The draft policy states: "Where
environmental assessment indicates that the proposed investment will contribute significantly to natural forest
degradation or conversion to nonforest land use, and change in forest land use becomes inevitable, ADB will
require rehabilitating or reforesting an equal area as appropriate in consultation with affected communities."
The Bank fails to explain what the word "inevitable" means in this context. Nor does it explain how the decision is
to be reached that damage to forests is inevitable. A forestry consultant hired by the ADB may decide that
replacing large areas of forest, fields, grazing lands and swiddens with monoculture plantations is inevitable. To
villagers, whose livelihoods depend on this land, such a decision would be far from inevitable.
Because the Bank defines plantations as forests, it fails to provide any protection to forests. If an ADB-funded
industrial plantation project planned to replace, say, 50,000 hectares of forest, to comply with the Bank’s policy,
the project developers could suggest that they would "reforest" a further 50,000 hectares with industrial
plantations. Whether the Bank will also fund this "reforestation" is not clear from the draft policy.
The ADB has made its June 2003 draft policy available on its web-site. The Bank "welcomes comments", which, it
assures us, will be given "serious consideration". The Bank "reserves the right to use the comments" in writing its
forest policy and "may publish a list of contributors who have provided comments".
What the web-site does not mention is that the ADB’s Board has already discussed and rejected the June 2003
At a board meeting on 22 July 2003, several of the Bank’s Executive Directors requested revisions to the June
2003 draft policy, according to Uschi Eid, state parliamentary secretary at Germany’s Ministry of Economic
Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Eid described the draft policy as "unfortunately behind our principles and
minimum standards for this sector; it does not reach the quality of the ‘Operational Standards’ of the World Bank."
The problem with the Bank’s internal review process is that it is internal. It is not public. It does not allow
participation. The Bank will not make public all the comments it receives. It will not respond to comments. How the
Bank will decide which comments are to be included and which are to be ignored is unknown. None of the Bank’s
alleged experts will have to face questions in public about the forest policy. In asking for comments, the Bank is
doing no more than attempting to legitimise an autocratic process.
By: Chris Lang, e-mail: email@example.com
- Cambodia: Rubber plantation, deforestation and corruption
Since the 1960s, Cambodia has been promoting the rehabilitation of rubber plantations as well as the
development of new ones. As long as rubber plantations involve using large areas of land, many people have
been evicted from their traditional lands and many more have lost their livelihoods, to make way for the
plantations (See WRM Bulletin Nº 59).
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
The Chhup Rubber Plantation Company at Tumring Commune, Sandan District, Kompong Thom Province,
launched on August 2001, will cover 6,200 hectares of rich red soil, "courtesy of the Colexim and Mieng Ly Heng
logging companies", said In Horn, vice chief of the company.
However, the plantation has encroached deep into the neighbouring forest. Indeed, clear-cutting outside the
plantation's boundaries was noticed by Marcus Hardtke, a logging monitor, and Eva Galabru, former country
director of Cambodia’s former official logging monitor, London- based Global Witness. They had seen a resin tree
stump at five-hundred-fifty meters distance from the plantation, so they decided to survey the area. They walked a
long distance, continuing on from the clear cut, down muddy oxcart trails and even some heavy machinery tread
tracks until night fell, and found fresh logging sites, one after another, with nearly 20 remaining stumps, most of
them blackened by fire and sticky with sap. Many of the resin stumps were found in the Tum Ar Spirit Forest and
the villagers believed that people were getting sick and some dying because of the logging in the spirit forest.
They stopped reporting the illegal logging to the forestry office as they said they believed that the forestry officials
were part of the business network.
The trees felled had been producing resin, once a primary source of revenue for local people. In Chhan, a
resident of Ronteah village in Tumring commune said he was angry about resin trees being cut. His family relied
on the resin trees for living up until four or five years ago, when they disappeared, he said. Resin collectors play
an active role in protecting the forest keeping their trees safe for a production which is environmentally
sustainable (see WRM Bulletin Nº 54 and 48). But now resin trees are cut, or else villagers are coerced into
selling their resin trees.
Hardtke and Galabru estimated that logging companies have clear cut at least 15 to 20 hectares of the forest
outside the boundaries of the rubber plantation. The area was cut in the last two months. Though Cambodia's
forest legislation prohibit the cutting of trees villagers have tapped to collect resin, a popular loophole is to call the
area being logged a land concession, something a rubber plantation qualifies for. Thus, both business
complement each other; they have found a way to legalise the conversion of a portion of the richest lowland
evergreen forest in Indochina into rubber.
A letter dated June 30 from the Working Group on Natural Resources Management --donor representatives who
have pushed for logging reform-- to the Minister of Agriculture addressed developments at Tumring it classified as
"troubling." Due to no prior analysis, "land clearance has run ahead of replanting, leaving large areas bare and
exposed to erosion, communities have been displaced and lost their established livelihoods...and there are other
problems...that we believe threaten the viability of the entire endeavor," the letter stated. "We are aware that
illegal and uncontrolled log shipment is taking place, including from in and around the Tumring area", the letter
Forestry Department Director Ty Sokhun denied that there is log transportation and tried to blame farmers for the
clearing. Asked about the clear-cutting, In Horn explained that the vast size of the operation prevented him from
staying abreast of everything happening at Tumring. "On the other hand, I'm not supposed to know too many
things," he said.
However, it seems that there’s more than ignorance in the business. Family links with the Prime Minister suggest
a case of corruption. Local sources have reported that a Mrs Seng Keang is listed on a Department of Forestry
and Wildlife document dated Feb 19, 2003, as the owner of illegally cut logs to be confiscated from Tumring.
Seng Keang is the wife of Dy Choch, also better known as Hun Choch, who is the cousin of Prime Minister Hun
Sen, and also the brother of Dy Phen, the military police commander of Kompong Thom province. Also, a brother
of Seng Keang, Kok Heang known as Mr 95, --who was previously sub-contractor for Mieng Ly Heng
Concession-- has been reported to be an influential man who has threatened people in the area.
There are indications that the Royal Government of Cambodia intends to develop similar rubber plantations in
three other provinces.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
The contribution of this kind of business to the "development" of the Tumring community or to Cambodia is
seriously questionable. The strong vested interests linked to it no doubt obtain money from timber, but no
environmental study was conducted, no consultation or delineation of the forest estate has been undertaken.
Logging, guns and corruption go hand in hand in many places, and now in Cambodia it seems that rubber
plantations have joined the crew.
Article based on information from: "Borders Unclear at K Thom Rubber Plantation", by Porter Barron, The
Cambodia Daily, September 2, 2003.
- Laos: Vietnamese consortium plans to build six dams
In July, the Vietnam Laos Investment and Development Company signed a $232 million deal with the Lao
Government to build and operate the 210 MW Sekaman 3 dam. This month the Lao Government announced its
approval for the consortium to build five more dams: Se Kong 4 (310 MW), Se Kong 5 (200 MW), Se Pian-Se
Nam Noi (340 MW), the Sekaman 1 (300 MW) and Sekaman 4 (55 MW).
The consortium consists of six state-run power and construction firms including Electricity of Vietnam, Vietnam’s
state-run electricity utility and the Song Da Construction Corporation. Last year Hanoi signed an agreement with
the Lao government to import 1,000 MW each year between 2006 and 2010.
The planned dams are all in the Se Kong River basin. The Se Kong flows from southern Laos into Cambodia and
is a major tributary of the Mekong River.
In 1998, British engineering consulting firm Halcrow completed a $2.5 million study of potential dam sites in three
river basins including the Se Kong. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of Halcrow’s study is the lack of
information available about these rivers, their fisheries and watersheds and the people that live there.
Halcrow noted that: "the hydrology database needs to be improved"; "there is a need for the estimation of
substantial amounts of missing data"; "fisheries information is extremely sporadic"; and "the current character of
the project watersheds is unknown". On environmental and sociological impacts, Halcrow concluded that "the
quality of available documentation is variable and generally inadequate to support the present study."
Yet there is little doubt that the impacts of the dams would be devastating.
The 190 square kilometre reservoir behind the proposed Sekaman 1 dam includes part of the Dong Ampham
National Biodiversity Conservation Area. When confronted with estimates that logging the reservoir area would
yield less timber than originally estimated, an employee with the then-developer, Austral Lao Power, is reported to
have said, "In that case we’ll just keep logging until we reach the Vietnamese border." ALP has since pulled out of
the project after its project manager Peter Martin was arrested in 2001, for not paying $240,000 in wages
allegedly owed to his Lao employees.
The Sekaman 1 dam could take up to seven years to fill causing "permanent damage" to the downstream
ecology, according to Halcrow. Fisheries would be wiped out, along with the livelihoods of communities
dependent on the fisheries. The change in water flow would threaten the Se Kong Plains Wetlands. The only
other example of this type of wetland in the Mekong Region is threatened by another proposed hydropower
project: the Nam Theun 2 dam.
For several years, local authorities in southern Laos have been evicting people from their homes in anticipation of
dam construction. The dam projects have been used as an excuse to clear people from upland watersheds,
supposedly in an attempt to stop swidden agriculture. One upland community that was moved from the site of the
Se Kong 5 saw one-third of its people die of malaria within a year of being evicted.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
Construction of the Se Pian-Se Nam Noi dam has been stalled since the 1997 Asian economic crisis. At the end
of 2000, the dam developer, South Korea’s Dong Ah Construction Industries, collapsed. The project was
nevertheless used as an excuse to evict Nya Heun indigenous people from the reservoir area and surrounding
In 1995, Swiss consulting firm Electrowatt (now 100% owned by Finnish consulting firm Jaakko Poyry) produced
an environmental impact assessment for the project. Electrowatt hired a US NGO, the Wildlife Conservation
Society (WCS), to conduct fishery and wildlife surveys of the project area. WCS recommended the Se Pian River
should not be dammed because of the damage this would cause to forests and fisheries. The recommendation
was excluded from Electrowatt’s final report. None of the follow-up studies that WCS recommended were carried
In 2001, an Electrowatt consultant visited the resettlement site for the Nya Heun people evicted from the Se Pian-
Se Nam Noi dam site. He reported that conditions were "far from being satisfactory" and in need of "urgent
improvement". Villagers had been given poor quality land and not enough pasture. Many households suffered
food shortages. Villagers were moved into houses without kitchens or toilets. Water quality was "rather bad" and
"not sufficient" to meet villagers’ needs. There were not enough classrooms or teachers. Malaria was "a very
serious problem". None of the villagers had electricity.
The impact of each of these dams is bad enough for the people and forests of Laos and Cambodia. Considered
together the proposed dams spell a social and environmental disaster.
By: Chris Lang, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Thailand: Assassinated Village Conservationist
Samnao Srisongkhram (1965-2003), who was shot in the head and killed by a hired gunman on 25 May, was a
village leader praised for his work defending the interests of fellow farmers in an area of Thailand’s Northeast
affected by pollution from a large pulp mill. He was 38.
Samnao, of Khambongpattana village in Khon Kaen province, was President of the local Phong River
Conservation Club. He had played a part in monitoring and ensuring compensation for the effects of pollution from
the Phoenix Pulp and Paper Company since 1996.
A member of a committee created by the Prime Minister’s Office to handle grievances against Phoenix and of a
committee set up by the governor of Khon Kaen province to look into agricultural damage caused by Phoenix’s
waste water disposal scheme, Samnao also worked on official plans for river conservation and was active in
conservation camps for young people as well as regional environmental activities. The pollution monitoring and
enforcement efforts of the local organizations he helped lead are widely credited with bringing about
improvements in water and air quality around the Phoenix mill.
Samnao was killed while sitting and talking quietly with his assassin at his family’s rice-field hut following a
villagers’ meeting to consider plans for a project to develop women’s leadership in his village. Samnao’s infant
daughter was by his side and his wife nearby. The assassin, a stranger to the area, had approached Samnao
posing as an NGO activist from North Thailand seeking information.
In July, police arrested a suspect in the murder in Southern Thailand. According to police sources, the suspect
fingered the headman of Samnao’s own subdistrict, Khoke Soong, as the person who had hired him to carry out
the killing. The headman, who has also been arrested, has longstanding ties with Phoenix, but local observers are
skeptical about whether he and the gunman are the only people involved in the shooting.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
Phoenix runs two kraft pulp lines producing about 200,000 tons of pulp per year from bamboo, kenaf and
eucalyptus. One uses elemental chlorine to bleach its pulp, the other chlorine compounds. Although Thailand
lacks the capacity to monitor dioxins, other pollutants associated with the pulp industry have been consistently
found across the neighbouring area. Before 1993, the firm’s effluents were released directly into the Phong river,
but, following a disastrous pollution incident, this was made illegal. Today, effluents from the two mills are treated
together and then dumped in holding ponds before being released onto company eucalyptus plantations.
However, Phoenix has been hard put to find enough land to release the 25-28,000 cubic metres of effluent it
needs to get rid of daily. Some waste water seeps into neighbouring farmers' fields and eventually into the Phong
river, damaging soils, crops and fisheries. According to an agreement signed with the Ministry of Industry, the firm
is obligated to acquire an additional tract of land to dump effluent on or have its permission to operate withdrawn
by the end of this year. Phoenix has been trying to buy the new land from villagers.
Several villagers, however, especially those owning fertile bottom land at the mouth of a local tributary, had
refused to sell. Backed by the Phong River Conservation Club, they also demanded proper compensation for land
already spoiled by the factory’s releases and gathered evidence to present to concerned government agencies.
Worried about the approaching government deadline, Phoenix had been in contact with Samnao as part of its
campaign to buy land and to bargain over compensation. According to locals, prior to the assassination, Samnao
had received calls from Phoenix both issuing threats and offering bribes, which he refused.
Araya Nanthaphotedet, director of the government’s 10 th Regional Environment Office, expressed hope that all
those behind the killing would be apprehended and convicted. She said Samnao had done very good work and
was an admirable spokesperson for his fellow villagers.
"Just before he died, he had participated in a provincial-level meeting about solving the land problems of the
factory that affected villagers," Araya said. "He was about to report back to the villagers. It’s such a shame."
Samnao is remembered by friends and co-workers as a reserved and humble leader without personal or political
ambitions who had no conflicts other than with Phoenix.
He is survived by his wife Mayuree and two children, a son, 7, and a daughter, 7 months. His place in the local
conservation group is being taken by, among several others, Chawang Buochan, himself the survivor of a 1996
shooting whose perpetrator was never found. Contributions to the collection being made for Samnao’s widow and
children can be sent to the following account:
ACCOUNT NAME: Mrs Mayuree Srisongkram for Utain Srisongkram
BANK NAME: Krung Thai Bank
BRANCH: Ubonrat Branch, Khon Kaen province
SAVINGS ACCOUNT NUMBER: 4341298616
Article based on information from: Krungthep Thurakit newspaper, 22 July 2003; Khao Sot newspaper, 17 July
2003; Manager Online, 17 July 2003.
- Honduras: International delegation documents serious problems in Olancho
During the month of July 2003, measures of intimidation and threats towards members of the Environmental
Movement of Olancho (Movimiento Ambientalista de Olancho –MAO) culminating in the murder of Carlos Arturo
Reyes from the El Rosario community, Salama Municipality, Olancho on 18 July 2002 (see WRM Bulletin 72)
were denounced before Honduran and international public opinion.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
Representatives of MAO and local Human Rights bodies, together with a group of Canadian, United States,
French, Italian and Mexican citizens present in the country set up an international delegation that visited various
communities located in four municipalities in the Department of Olancho (Gualaco, San Esteban, Catacamas and
Salama) to gather testimonials from those affected and data on the violent situation in this and other parts of the
Various problems were identified, related with:
- an agrarian conflict, causing the violent eviction of 23 families
- the implementation of a hydroelectric project that does not enjoy consensus among the municipal population
- the felling and illegal trading of timber and the action of institutions regarding environmental protection
- the damage caused by open-cast mining, a practice that according to witnesses, is increasing
- violence, coercion and threats against certain people, very often those who have had a leading role in social
movements or that have shown civilly and peacefully, their disagreement with some political decision or with the
action of specific groups.
Although the interviewees stress the damage caused by illegal logging and marketing of timber, they also
denounce the way in which management plans are designed and granted by the institutions, in particular the
Honduran Corporation for Forestry Development (Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal – CODEHFOR).
One of the most relevant aspects is related with the modus operandi as, on the one hand, CODEHFOR is
responsible for supervising marketing (through the granting of management plans and licences to exploit forests)
but, on the other hand, this same attribution makes it responsible for monitoring sustainable resource use. The
compatibility of these two functions has been questioned by environmentalists, who base their criticism on the fact
that many of CODEHFOR’s managers have been or are, directly related to the timber business.
For his part, the procurator for the environment and natural resources, although focussing on claims against
individuals who are involved in timber traffic, recognises in his own way that political will has been lacking on the
part of the executive power (CODEHFOR reports to the executive power, while the environmental procurator
reports to the legislative power) to promote measures making it possible to act more efficiently against illegal
timber traffic and corruption linked to this type of activity.
In this respect, the merely coercive measures proposed by the institutions are negatively perceived by civil society
actors committed to forest defence. According to them, so-called militarization is both unable to halt forest
logging, and is turned into an instrument to legitimize management plans prepared in accordance with the
interests of major logging companies. On the other hand, many of those interviewed have denounced that within
this rationale what has been sought is to criminalize peaceful action, while they underscore that almost none of
the murders of MAO members have been thoroughly investigated and nor have all the implications been clarified.
However, beyond the conflicts between environmentalists and logging companies directly related to forest
exploitation, a major problem shows its head: that of water. In all the cases reported by the delegation, the link
between forest logging and water scarcity is highlighted, as for example in San Pedro de Catacamas, where the
disappearance of wells has led the population to block systematically the log-transporting trucks in their
municipality. This shows up the population’s interest in managing its own resources, an aspiration that does not
seem to be considered by the corresponding institutions.
In turn, the lack of water sets a problem of food security for the population that, on seeing its efforts to harvest
food fail, take the road to more fertile and irrigated zones in national protected areas (particularly the Rio Platano
Biosphere Reserve). However, in this case the police forces are evicting those who are displaced from other
zones, in compliance with the environmental law. Thus, because of a lack of consideration of all the facets of the
problem, the victims of environmental degradation become the culprits.
It should be noted that, in the framework of the Meso-American Biological Corridor, the Rio Platano Biosphere
Reserve is to be united with the Bosawas (Nicaragua) Biosphere Reserve in a trans-frontier zone. The peasant
population of the Bosawas reserve has also been evicted due to lack of land, seeking plots for cultivation. The
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
first 100 families evicted last May have been left to their luck in the lands belonging to an agricultural cooperative
located on the outskirts of the reserve. The prolongation of this precarious situation and the perspective of a
second eviction phase --500 more families-- threaten to trigger off a major conflict. According to information from
the Bosawas project of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Natural Resources (MARENA), one of the determining factors
in the eviction has been the World Bank proposal to finance a drinking water project (and later an electric energy
generation project) which will use the water resources of the Bosawas reserve.
Finally, it is surprising to note the increase of mining concessions as a "collateral" effect of forest exploitation
projects. For the local population, forest exploitation is a first stage, followed by mining exploitation when the
forest is depleted. In both cases depredation affects the water supply for the affected population (scarcity due to
logging of the forest and cyanide contamination in the case of mining exploitation).
Some 160 families live in San Pedro de Catacamas, mainly surviving on agriculture and animal husbandry. One
of the inhabitants told us that the logging companies have been extracting timber from the forest for years now,
taking the logs to be processed somewhere else. The inhabitants mention the Sansoni, Landizabal and Meselaya
companies as involved in ransacking and processing this resource. With their action, the community has
achieved the total halting of logging on their territory.
In spite of this, the inhabitants of San Pedro de Catacamas live with the effects of previous exploitation, droughts
being the hardest felt consequence. The 300 wells in the community have dried up. During the winter, they
manage with rainwater, but in the summer there is a water crisis and the community members must walk for many
hours to find water for domestic use.
For this reason, the inhabitants of various communities in the neighbouring municipality of Gualaco took strong
action against the construction of the Babilonia River hydroelectric dam, part of the regional Puebla-Panama Plan
project (see WRM bulletin 73) granted in a 30-year concession to the ENERGISA hydroelectric company. It is
suspected that members of the national congress have direct interests in this company. According to Rafael
Ulloa, former mayor of Gualaco, the Babilonia river water concession "leaves 11 communities without access to
this water." He adds, "Once the dam is built --the decree is clear-- water is to generate energy, they own the
water and the community does not benefit from the project, it does not have the right to protest or anything."
Father Andres Tamayo, the parish priest of Salama, with a death threat hanging over him, explained that
approximately 40% of the national budget for candidates of the Honduran National and Liberal parties comes from
the sale of timber. This makes him doubt that any of them or COHDEFOR will be willing to question the events in
Olancho. Regarding the responsibility of foreign governments and transnational companies in the Olancho
situation, Father Tamayo stated "if the rich countries of the world were really interested in ‘reducing poverty’
surely at this stage there would be some sign that poverty has been reduced, with all that has been invested over
the past 60 years. Or perhaps this investment is precisely to maintain the unjust system exactly as it is?"
Excerpts and adaptation of the "Informe de la visita realizada por una delegación internacional al departamento
de Olancho – Honduras del 25 al 27 de julio de 2003" (Report of the visit paid by an international delegation to
the department of Olancho – Honduras, from 25 to 27 June 2003), sent by Helena Roux, e-mail:
- Nicaragua: Canadian mining company accused of cyanide spill
The municipality of Bonanza belongs to the North Atlantic Autonomous Region. Since 1880, when gold deposits
were discovered, the region has suffered from the "gold rush." It also gave rise to strong migratory currents from
many parts of the world in the search for this metal. Presently, the main economic activities of the region continue
to be the exploitation together with industrial and artisan processing of gold, and subsistence agriculture.
On 14 January 2003, a cyanide solution spill --a product used in the industrial processing to obtain gold-- took
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
place at the Canadian company HEMCONIC and/or Greenstone. The spill was the equivalent of 30,433 gallons,
with concentrations of over one hundred mg/litre. The accident was due to mechanical failures and was publicly
denounced by the inhabitants of the locality. According to company technicians, the cyanide dumped into the
Bambana river has a percentage of 0.9 ptm (parts to a million), which does not represent a hazard to human
However, health workers from the Indigenous community of Prinzubila, Prinzapolka municipality, reported the
death of seven children who are suspected of having been poisoned by drinking water from the Bambana River --
this community is located on its banks. The death of another five children from the neighbouring community of
Wasa King (Rosita municipality) was also reported.
A Ministry of Health Commission followed up on the cases and concluded that none of them was due to
poisoning. However, the Humboldt Centre organization --that has monitored the activities of this mining company
since its start-- set up a technical team in order to verify the magnitude of the spill. On 24 and 25 January, five
samples were taken to verify the concentration of the solution, and later sent to the Centre for Research on
Aquatic Resources (Centro de Investigaciones de Recursos Acuáticos – CIRA) for analysis. From the results
obtained, it appears that, with the exception of sample 4, all the analyses showed results above the standard,
indicating that the spill contained cyanide.
Since 1994, HEMCONIC has had the concession of the BONANZA plot, covering 12,400 hectares for a 50-year
period. The main processing system used by the company is leaching. Already in 1995, the Bonanza mine
discharged cyanide solutions into the rivers Tunky, Concha Urrutia and Bambana, causing damage to the
environment and surrounding communities, basically rural or indigenous communities that obtain their water
supply from surface sources, making them more directly exposed.
In 1999, the Humboldt Centre had formally denounced HEMCONIC before the Environmental Procurator’s Office,
for contamination of the water table and rivers surrounding the cyanided lagoon. The Nicaraguan Centre for
Research on Aquatic Resources made an inspection and took samples from the mine’s cyanided lagoon and
concluded that the treatment process was inadequate to reduce the cyanide concentrations before they were
In the year 2000, the Humboldt Centre lodged a formal complaint against the Nicaraguan State and the Canadian
mining company HEMCONIC and/or Greenstone, before the Honourable Water Tribunal, for non-supervision on
the part of the State in the task of monitoring and because of cyanide effluents into the Tunkey, Concha Urrutia
and Bambana rivers, threatening the quality of life of the local inhabitants and affecting the water resources of the
Bonanza municipality. The Tribunal’s verdict was in favour of the plaintiff.
In this further episode of contamination, on 20 February, the Humboldt Centre submitted to the mass media the
results of the analyses it had made. It also sent the Ministry of the Environment the results and a letter requesting
their opinion in this respect and lodged a complaint with the Environmental Procurator’s Office, requesting
corrective action to be taken in this case. So far, no action is known to have been taken by the Environmental
Procurator’s Office. In the meanwhile, the local population continues to be submitted to the risk of cyanide
Article based on information from: Informe Bonanza, sent by the Humboldt Centre, e-mail:
email@example.com ; "Niños envenenados al ingerir agua", 21 January 2003, Heberto Jarquín M., La
Prensa, http://www-ni.laprensa.com.ni/cronologico/2003/enero/21/nacionales/nacionales-20030121-02.html ;
Minsa desmiente intoxicación en río Bambana, 27 January 2003 Heberto Jarquín M./Corresponsal, La Prensa,
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
- Mexico: The loss of forests for the community and for women
Chiapas is a zone that is very rich in natural resources, where water and forests are abundant, and who says
forests, says diversity, fruit, seeds, flowers, wild animals, fish, medicinal plants, materials for various uses --for
firewood, building, crafts, implements, etc.
Who benefits from all of this? The region is now suffering from the brunt of "development" policies, for which
development is synonymous with incorporation into the international market. Usually the South has the function
of producing raw material or food, providing natural resources --among which, oil, water, minerals-- and is a place
for the settlement of industries that use the supply of cheap labour, favoured additionally with exemption from
labour and/or environmental protection requisites.
Under the aegis of article 27 of the progressive 1917 Constitution, in 1936, President Lazaro Cardenas had
launched an agrarian reform, setting up the "ejidos", or communal lands. However in 1992, President Salinas de
Gortari, carried out what at the time hundreds of peasant organizations called a counter agrarian reform,
modifying the article in the Constitution, which guaranteed access to land by peasants, and allowed it to be sold
privately. "And now they want to privatize tourist locations too, where there is great natural wealth that Mother
Earth herself has given to indigenous peoples and peasants, and that is what they want to privatize," said Maria
Angelina, a Franciscan missionary who works for the Diocesan Coordination Office for Women in San Cristóbal
de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico.
The peasants are always in inferior conditions, because they end up by producing for markets whose prices they
do not control. Furthermore, the forest that has always been a source of resources, is taken away from them. For
many years now, in the region of the Tojolabal de San Miguel community in Los Altos de Chiapas, logging
companies and large sawmill companies have felled the forest, seeking pine, mahogany and other fine timber. It
is hard for the trees to grow back, say the inhabitants. The same inhabitants also end up by cutting wood to make
chairs, beds, furniture, trying to make a living out of this, but at very low sales prices.
Maria Rosario (Chayito) from the community of San Miguel, tells how in 1996 the Mexican army, as a strategy in
its war against the insurgents used the burning of large areas of forest, to justify eviction of the Zapatista bastions.
Her community was directly affected by those enormous forest fires. Chayito tells us how, from the four cardinal
points, four fires surrounded the community. It was lucky the houses were not burnt down, but all the rest, the 282
hectares of cultivated lands, were lost.
From an agricultural standpoint, the lands of the San Miguel community are not very productive as it is an area of
rocks and mountains covered by forests. However, the community had made an effort and after a lot of work had
its plantations of corn and beans, the staple foods of the Indigenous People’s diet. They were also "happy to
have mountains with the freshness and joy they bring," in addition to finding in the forest a complement to their
diet with small animals and obtaining a supply of firewood, water, flowers that the women sold, to obtain a
The fires burnt everything down: the corn and bean plantations, the coffee plantations, and the forest. Together
with the forest, the orchids, wild flowers and animals disappeared. "It is all finished," says Chayito. There is no
more firewood nearby, and they have to seek it far away. This also contributes to poorer housing conditions, as
traditionally homes were built using trees for wood and poles and palms for the roof. When the palms
disappeared, the community housing deteriorated enormously as they had to build the roofs out of building
materials, purchased in the city and for which money --always scarce-- is required. As women no longer have
forest flowers to sell, family incomes have dropped even further.
Many nearby rivers and wells that used to supply water to the community have dried up. This implies more work
for women who traditionally procure water. They have to go further to fetch it, increasing their tiredness and taking
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
time from other tasks --that in themselves are many. All conspires to make a woman’s day exhausting. "There is
still a lot of "machismo". Few families are aware and help women."
The community has had to overcome the shortages and seek ways of solving the problem. For this purpose, it
has sacrificed its cultivation plots so that the land can regenerate. "It is only now that the forest has started to
recover, the mountains to turn green again, but the trees are still small," while the large trees are still falling, with
their burnt roots.
On this side, sacrifice, and on the side of the government the solution could not be worse. They come with tree
plantation projects with other types of trees that are not from the community, alien species, trees that "drink more
water," the eucalyptus, jacaranda, pines, that are not "lasting" and "destroy the land because they need a lot of
water." These are surely trees that will end up feeding gigantic paper mills, which in turn will feed gigantic packing
companies, which in turn are linked to gigantic trading companies, which in turn…How far back has the
community been left! How broad and alien has the world become for them!
Article based on information from an interview held in July 2003 with Maria Rosario Gomez (Chayito) secular
diocesan missionary from the Parish of San Miguel Arcangel and Maria Angelina Miranda, Diocesan Women’s
Coordinator (CODIMUJ), Chiapas, Mexico, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bolivia: Protected areas at the disposal of oil companies
In some cases following a very dubious public participation process and in others, causing strong reaction, the
Protected Areas Bill was submitted to consultation. In general, there is rejection of the Bill’s attempt to legalize
entry of oil and mining companies into protected areas such as the Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and
Indigenous Territory, and the Amboro and Madidi Parks. Peasant organizations in Cochabamba stated that if
protected areas are for the oil or logging companies, they prefer them not to exist.
Oil companies turn to the highest government levels to obtain the approval of seismic exploration projects, the
laying of pipelines and oil exploitation within protected areas and indigenous territories, endeavouring to reduce to
the minimum environmental and social requirements and do not respect management and zonation plans. To this
is added the granting of mining concessions linked to political power. Eight oil companies obtained 24
concessions to explore and exploit hydrocarbon minerals in nine protected areas in Bolivia according to data from
the National Service for Protected Areas (Servicio Nacional de Areas Protegidas – SERNAP). Andina, Total,
Chaco, Repsol, Maxus, Petrobras and Don Wong are some of the companies carrying out such operations in
Bolivian preservation areas.
If the bill is approved, proposals for sustainable biodiversity use will be dismantled, such as the Indigenous
Mapajos Ecotourism Enterprise in the Pilon Lajas Reserve and Indigenous Territory, the community ecotourism
projects in the Amoro Park (La Chonta, Mataracu, Villa Amboro) and others in the Eduardo Abaroa Reserve and
Sajama Park and in all the protected areas in Bolivia. According to Jose Coello from SERNAP, income from
tourism in nature preservation zones can generate more than the returns from oil exploitation. Tourist activity has
just started in these areas in Bolivia and has already generated over 4 million dollars, in the Madidi region alone.
The bill establishes the need to re-classify and re-adapt all protected areas to be ratified by the law, implying that
the national parks where oil interests exist could be reclassified to enable such activities to enter the areas; this
would be the case of the Amboro and Madidi Parks. Although it establishes an exception in the core zones, parks
and sanctuaries, protection would be reduced to small conservation islands, such as in Pilon Lajas, one of the
most important protected areas in the Andean-Amazon region of Bolivia, part of the Vilcabamba (Peru) – Amboro
(Bolivia) ecological corridor.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
It is clear that if the bill is adopted, one of the first results will be approval of the Petrobras seismic exploration
project, presently on hold at the Ministry of the Environment. To carry out seismic exploration, straight lines 1.5 to
4 metres wide are traced through forests, rivers, plantations or villages, removing the plant cover or other cover in
order to locate geological structures containing hydrocarbon deposits by means of detection equipment. In
addition to constructing roads, heliports, camps, storage zones for material and equipment causing deforestation
of large extensions of forest, pollutants will be dumped in rivers, soils and in the air and there will be impacts on
the fauna in the area. Populations in these territories suffer from the invasion of camps of workers from other
locations, which totally alter community life.
Most of the legal provisions on protected areas expressly prohibit new oil, mining and logging exploitation
activities. Therefore, although sectoral oil and mining laws have defined these activities as a national priority,
approval of environmental licences is not guaranteed and has been strongly questioned by ecologist, social and
local community organizations. In 2001 the Department of Santa Cruz and many national institutions managed to
halt approval of an environmental licence for the Andina (Amoco) oil company, which was attempting to enter the
Amboro Park where ecotourism projects, hostels, research and training projects are being implemented, making
the area one of the most promoted and important conservation zones in Santa Cruz.
Another basic aspect questioned in the bill is that for its authors, biodiversity is an issue of flora, fauna and micro-
organisms. They forget that the laws in force in the country define biodiversity as having an "intangible"
component referring to collective knowledge or associated cultural life. These same laws recognize local
community protection of this component.
The bill not only legalizes oil, mining and logging activities in protected areas, but places the "users" of these
activities on Management Committees as "actors in the management of Protected Areas," forgetting that it is
precisely these activities and companies that are the main causers of contamination and degradation problems
where they operate.
Article based on information from: "Proyecto de ley de Areas Protegidas a la medida de las petroleras", 25 August
2003, FOBOMADE press release, e-mail: email@example.com ; "Las áreas protegidas afectadas por
24 concesiones petroleras", El Deber, 26 June 2003, http://www.el-deber.net/20030626/nacional_6.html
- Brazil: Women’s working conditions in tree plantations
In many regions of Brazil, woodlands and areas previously used for agriculture are now substituted by large-scale
monoculture tree plantations, recruiting their work force among men, women and children. In the case of Minas
Gerais, plantation implies a series of activities carried out by women on a par with men, except logging which is a
masculine activity par excellence.
Hiring of women workers was based on their greater aptitude to carry out certain tasks, such as growing plants in
nurseries, which requires greater dexterity. In some cases too, women are entrusted with the application of ant-
killers to the land planted with eucalyptus.
While the plantations expanded and the work rationale changed, given the technical specificities of tree
production, in some cases female labour simply became a form of direct incorporation of cheap labour,
contributing to lower the salaries of men workers.
The labour conditions of women workers have much in common with those of men, but some degree of
differentiation may be established with relation to their work in the tree nurseries. In the plantations of two large
forestry companies (V&M and Plantar), a large quantity of reiterated injuries caused by making great efforts have
been observed, in spite of which women continue to work, many of them with swollen or bandaged hands. They
also suffer from rheumatic diseases, probably caused by their constant exposure to cold water in the nurseries
and to a generally cold environment in the wintertime.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
In these two plantations there are no specific gender policies, which is detrimental to them and to their children.
As there are no day-care centres near the place of work, it is almost impossible for women to breastfeed their
babies after their 4 months maternity leave, established by law, thus increasing malnutrition. They usually leave
their homes at 5.30 in the morning and return late in the afternoon. Added to the workday, they are obliged to
return home in the company transport, which takes an hour or more as it goes around, picking up all the workers
at the plantations.
In interviews held in Curvelo, Minas Gerias, to women working in plantations, one of the main complaints they
made was the basic need for drinking water. One of the women interviewed reported that there were days when
the water came out of the watering places very cloudy and reddish, which makes one suspect contamination from
the agrochemicals used by these companies, some of which are prohibited on international lists. Perhaps this
data should be related with the numerous cases of cerebral diseases of workers that have been discharged and
the high incidence of cancer in the zone.
All this takes place in a context of unemployment, misinformation regarding workers rights and loss of access to
the natural resources that previously satisfied their needs. Thus, many women workers do not receive medical
care, and do not know how to bring their case to court. To this is added that they are made to feel guilty for work-
related accidents or diseases. Furthermore, they fear loosing their jobs or not receiving the basic food basket that
the Collective Agreement ensures them and that they count on for their family’s basic food.
The plantation companies arrived in the region promising development. They substituted the "cerrado" vegetation
by monoculture tree plantations, thus eliminating all the goods and services that this ecosystem provided to its
inhabitants and in particular to women. In exchange, they received the "benefit" of jobs such as those described.
Is this what they call development?
Article based on information from "Agricultores e asalariados das plantações florestais em Minas Gerais: quais
problemas?", Múcio Tosta Gonçalves, http://www.cedeplar.ufmg.br/diamantina2002/textos/D72.PDF ; "Certifying
the Uncertifiable. FSC Certification of Tree Plantations in Thailand and Brazil", World Rainforest Movement,
August 2003; and information provided by Rosa Roldán, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peru: Ex-Im Bank rejects funding Camisea Project
In 1980 the Shell Company, logging companies and Evangelical missions forced contact with the Indigenous Yora
people, causing the death of approximately 50% of the population due to epidemics. Indigenous organizations
requested the government to set up a reserve, which they finally obtained in 1990. In the State Nahua
Kugapakori Reserve, in favour of peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact, inhabit peoples such as the
Yora and Chitonahua identified in the Pano linguistic family, the Nanti peoples and various Matsigenka subgroups
with linguistic varieties classified among the Arawak ethno-linguistic group. There are also Indigenous Peoples in
isolation that have not yet been identified in the upper Serjali and Timpia.
In the year 2000, the Peruvian government granted exploitation rights of lot 88 to the oil consortium Pluspetrol
Peru Corporation S.A. for a 40-year period. The site, located on the river Camisea, is in the heart of the tropical
rainforest of the Urubamba and three quarters of it are in the Nahua Kugapakori Reserve. In other bulletins we
have already referred to the enormous damage this project has caused, both to the communities and Indigenous
peoples of the zone, and to the rich biodiversity of unique primary tropical forests (see WRM Bulletins 56 and 62)
and we disseminated a call for action launched by Oilwatch in this respect, see
http://www.wrm.org.uy/alerts/Peru0703.html (only in Spanish).
The Camisea Project does not have effective plans to monitor the welfare of the villages under impact during the
life of the project, nor does it have contingency plans in case the situation becomes worse. The incidence of
crime, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases and alcoholism has increased with the immigration of workers
and settlers to already established communities. Furthermore, the presence of a market economy distorts the
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
self-subsistence economy, changing consumer patterns and upsetting the Indigenous Peoples’ food chain.
The enormous pressure on natural resources as a consequence of opening up primary forests to build the oil
pipeline, camps, plant, seismic lines, access roads and pipelines between wells and the plant, opening up of
routes of access to the zone facilitating the movement of people inside the primary forests, contributes in the long
run to fragmentation and deforestation and in addition, is an enormous threat on the local communities’ natural
The Indigenous Peoples demand, among other things, the project to be halted and the withdrawal of the
contracting companies, compliance with ILO Convention 169, respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in
isolation to decide the time and way of interacting with others, that mechanisms for direct indigenous participation
in the independent control, assessment and monitoring of the project be ensured, the establishment of a Fund,
with direct Indigenous participation, aimed at the environmental management of the Amazon forest in the area
affected by the Camisea Project, that sanctions be imposed regarding irreversible ecological damage and to
demand measures of prevention and compensation.
Within such context there is at least one good news: the board of directors of the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, which was to
provide 270 million dollars to the controversial project, has decided against funding. The decision is a cloud
hanging over a credit of 75 million dollars for Camisea from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), whose
board of directors has not addressed the issue for the third consecutive time.
It is evident that the pressure against the project for environmental reasons has weighed here. There are also
sectors in the United States that do not share the idea that IDB should support this much questioned project that
mainly benefits large companies suspiciously linked to people who are firm contributors to President George
Bush’s campaigns. Such is the case of Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a branch of Vice-President Dick Cheney’
old company, Halliburton, which now has the business of reconstructing oil facilities in Iraq.
It is hoped that this Ex-Im Bank decision will contribute to halting the project and that IDB will adopt a similar
Article based on information from: "Declaración de los Pueblos Indígenas en Defensa de la Vida, el Territorio y el
Ambiente", sent by Correo Indígena, N° 33 - Lima, 28 August 2003, e-mail: email@example.com ;
"Financing for Peru’s Camisea Project Voted Down by U.S. Ex-Im Bank", press release by Amazon Watch,
Friends of the Earth, Bank Information Center, Environmental Defense, Amazon Alliance, Institute for Policy
Studies, 28 August 2003, sent by Atossa Soltani, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; "Bush, the rainforest and a gas
pipeline to enrich his friends", The Independent,
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=428887 , sent by Amazon Alliance, e-mail:
- Uruguay: Semi-slave work in plantation forestry
Plantation forestry --promoted by the 1987 forestry law and consisting of large-scale monoculture plantations of
alien trees-- promised an infinite number of benefits to the country: exports, industry, thousands of new jobs.
Subsidies, tax exemptions for the import of machinery and industrial equipment, land rates, net worth tax, credits
from the World Bank and the Bank of the Republic and the possibility of corporations becoming owners of the
land by means of exceptions to the law, were some of the benefits those entrepreneurs received.
"With the experience of having invested in my own property, I recommend you to study these opportunities and
to follow my example," invited the then President of Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle, who had more than one
headache over his wheeling and dealing in the forestry issue. Spanish, Finnish, United States and Canadian
capitals arrived to install themselves on Uruguayan territory.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
In a little over ten years, Uruguay multiplied the number of hectares covered by plantations. The 45,000 hectares
existing at the beginning of the nineties today reach over 600,000. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and
Fisheries' 2002 agricultural census, plantation forestry has given permanent work to 2,962 people, although the
seasonal nature of the work prevents knowing exactly how many jobs it generates. There is another difficulty; the
rate of moonlighting is very high, above all in outsourced work.
Recruited in small villages, in bars, in the cattle ranches where they work as labourers, driven by the need to work
and added to the fact that many of them have no knowledge of their labour rights or are afraid that if they make
demands they will be fired, or because they are minors, lumber-jacks end up by accepting the conditions they are
offered without protesting.
Thirty year-old Alexis Silva arrived in the Department of Treinta y Tres from Salto to work for the Otalin S.A.
Company that exploits a plot of 250 hectares planted with eucalyptus on the La Candela ranch. The movement of
people from one Department to another is usual in this activity and, additionally, is a way of exerting pressure on
workers. Far from home, it is harder to complain.
Felling is hard work. The axe weighs between 5 and 9 kilos and each tree trunk between 40 and 100 kilos. Activity
starts at sunrise and ends at sunset, from Sunday to Sunday, with an arbitrary rest every 15, 20 or 43 days.
Workers usually have a breakfast of porridge oats and cocoa and during their work, they only drink water which is
not provided by the employer although the regulations oblige him to do so. To provide drinking water of course,
and not from the stream as has been the case. Dinner is the only real meal of the whole day.
While the work lasts, the lumberjacks, save for exceptions, stay in the woods and manage as they can. They build
huts using tin sheeting, polyethylene bags, branches, boards or any other material. The beds may be thick
branches of eucalyptus, sometimes with a mattress. They have a bath as they can, have dinner, play a while on
a mouse-eaten accordion and then off to bed.
Another task is that of the chainsaw operator who cuts the trees down, trying to avoid accidents and in a way that
will enable them to grow again properly. Once on the ground, a worker takes off the branches and makes a mark
with burnt oil every 2.4 metres. The chainsaw man cuts at the marks and another worker strips the bark off each
of the logs. Once this is finished they make piles of ten logs at the base by two metres high, which are then put on
a trailer and taken to the trucks that will go to the port. They also work making logs for firewood, which implies
felling the tree, taking off the branches, cutting them, chopping up the logs and making a pile of them. Whatever
the job is, it is hard to earn more than 150 or 200 pesos (US$ 5.5 - 7) daily, provided the outsourcer does not
swindle them and before the "normal" discounts…
Twenty year-old Ruben told us "it seemed to me that what they are doing there (at Otalin) is a racket. I was there
three months and the most money I ever made was 1,000 pesos (US$ 35). All I earned went to the store". In
other cases, the employers pay part of the wages with bonds to be exchanged in stores where the companies
have some kind of an agreement, or at the ranch itself.
When Alexis started work as a chainsaw operator, he had to purchase the saw that the employer sold him at 600
dollars, taken out in instalments from his wages. Petrol, oil, chains, files, he had to pay for everything
("replacement for an axe handle 60 pesos", was registered in one of the invoices), although regulations oblige the
employer to cover these costs.
Ruben and Alexis talk about the dangers of the job: from a splinter flying and going directly into an eye, a wrong
manoeuvre with a mechanical arm and the logs falling on someone, to a tree falling on the workmate who is
stripping another log, or the chain of the chainsaw breaking and hurting someone’s legs, a simple slip when using
The amount of irregularities, abuses, default in payment, was what led the lumberjacks, encouraged by Silva, to
lodge a claim. However, only a few are willing to follow-up with legal action; others have commented that they
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
know that this is right but are afraid of "getting a bad name" and that they will not be hired again and "you have to
take care of your job."
The Ministry of Labour inspectors were there and verified that the living and working conditions are those
described. In the meanwhile, the paperwork follows its course. For Alexis, the major objective is to disseminate
the story. "If I am offered work again, I’ll take it, but not under the same conditions, this is why I am fighting."
Excerpts and adaptation of the article "Empleos semiesclavos de la forestación. Los monteadores," (Semi-slave
jobs in forestry. The lumberjacks), Mariana Contreras, Brecha, 15 August 2003.
- Australia: Certified Forests - the end to Forest Conflict?
Will it ever be possible to resolve community conflict around natural resource management - particularly the
logging of forests - in Australia?
I am undertaking a PhD to discover if this is the case, and have been getting some positive results so far,
although my project is not yet finished. I am seeking to prove that conflict around logging can be resolved by
developing a process to identify areas suitable for logging that is socially just (i.e. everybody who has a stake in
the issue has the right to be involved), procedurally sound (in other words is a rigorous system of assessment,
monitoring and verification) and is as close to environmentally sustainable as current knowledge allows (if you
like, to deliver "ecological justice").
In order to deliver these three core elements (social, procedural and environmental justice) I have looked at a
number of tools already out there in the marketplace of ideas. To deliver social justice, I have used a research
approach called "participatory action research", which seeks to involve the community in the project, and to help
and equip them to become active in the project. This approach is also based on continuous cycles of problem
identification, evaluation and analysis. To deliver procedural justice, I have made use of the Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC) system of independent, third party forest management certification. The FSC is an international
independent body that accredits certifiers to assess forest management under its "principles and criteria for well-
managed forests", and is driven by stakeholders (social, environmental or economic) – not government. To deliver
environmental justice, I have selected a site (a monoculture Eucalyptus nitens plantation) that I am proposing be
cleared over a two stage rotation and returned to native forest (this concept is known as "restoration forestry").
Having worked extensively with the community, environmental groups, government agencies and the FSC, I am
in the process of undertaking logging trials to test which system of removing the plantation trees and replacing
them with natural regeneration and special planting works best.
Once this has been tested, I hope to encourage plantation landowners across the landscape to take up the
concept of having their properties assessed for conservation values and placed under protective covenant, and
their plantations restored over a number of years back to native forest.
This has been a long and complicated process! If you want to know more, please visit:
By: Tim Cadman, e-mail: email@example.com
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
- Papua New Guinea: Oil palm "joint venture" for the benefit of rich companies
Oil palm is now Papua New Guinea’s largest agricultural foreign exchange earner, ahead of coffee. At present,
there are four major oil palm projects, most of them of the Nucleus Estate model with a ‘parent’ palm oil company
predominantly foreign owned. Under such scheme, growers are organized into Village Oil Palm (VOP) and
Leaseholders. VOP are operated by landowners in their own customary lands. Leaseholders lease land from
other landowners for the plantings. But the ‘joint venture’ Smallholders Nucleus Estates is really an ‘out sourcing’
exercise for palm oil companies to increase supply and profitability for their mills whilst sharing the costs and risks
associated with this kind of industry with growers.
International financial institutions and other funding agencies provide funds for the company. The company
supplies seedlings, expertise, tools, fertilizers, and so on, which will be repaid by the growers. The growers
provide labour and bear all the cost of land clearing and all stages of the palm plantation establishment, including
regular maintenance and harvesting. So the risk is on the growers as their return is heavily dependent on the
world palm oil price level and the productivity of their plots. This model offers the companies a better and more
profitable alternative from the conventional large-scale plantations owned by the company. Conversely, growers
do not own shares in the companies.
On the part of the government, Prime Minister Michael Somare has declared tax breaks for companies interested
in developing this industry. Senior Government officials have announced plans for expansion of oil palm
plantations in nearly every province in PNG.
As for the international financial institutions, "[They] like oil palm projects because they are one of the most viable
development projects which will guarantee loan repayments", said Managing Director of a foreign owned palm oil
company in PNG. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) claims that the most effective means of poverty reduction
for PNG is a broad-based economic growth model led by the private sector and that it is crucial to kick start the
development of Nucleus Estates to a point where they will attract financing from private sector or other funders,
including the ADB. The argument is that the development of commercial enterprises will create spin-off benefits
for the rural poor by enabling smallholder agricultural development.
However, the majority of rural communities in PNG are by no means poor. With the exception of areas degraded
or polluted by large mines, agriculture or fishery projects, the customary land tenure system has enabled local
communities to have free and easy access to land, clean water and the abundance of natural resources for a
decent quality of life. Their lifestyle is one that many people in the industrialised west and poverty stricken places
in the world would cherish and aspire to.
Lands are communally owned and shared within and between clans in PNG. But, once the land is converted into
cash crop plantation plots by a particular family or families within a clan, this relationship and "ownership" is
permanently changed. Civil society is concerned that oil palm and other large-scale agriculture projects is just
another way the international financial institutions and powerful funding agencies use to facilitate ‘land
mobilisation’. Land mobilisation involves creating a centrally controlled register of land ownership and boundaries
of customary lands. This will effectively give the national government the power to decide on land ownership and
distribution, further eroding the customary system which has already been in place for such matters. This change
may facilitate easier transfer of the customary land tenure system to freehold, leasehold or to state ownership to
enable easier private sector access to PNG’s rich and abundant natural resources.
The introduction of oil palm in PNG has also brought many complex and costly social problems once unknown to
rural PNG. The change that comes with this kind of externally imposed project is often disruptive and undermines
existing customary systems and structures which have sustained local communities as long as they remember.
Some problems include a shift from customary processes of land use and allocation (resulting in discontents and
anger within the community and between communities), waterway pollution through siltation, sediment run-off and
eutrophication during construction and operations of oil palm, low return for landowners and smallholders who find
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
themselves trapped in a situation of total dependency on the oil palm company and commodity price fluctuations,
and destruction of biodiverse rich ecosystems through encroachment of plantations, for example upon the habitat
of the endangered Queen Alexander Birdwing butterfly (world’s largest), or on one of the most spectacular cave
systems on Earth, the Caves of Pomio.
Small landowners are concerned about this process and they have asserted that: "We, the landowners are
developing and will continue to develop OUR LAND on our own terms. We therefore sternly warn all those parties
involved in wanting to use OUR LAND for oil palm to STAY OUT! Any attempt to bring oil palm on our land will be
strongly resisted" (Extract from a newspaper advertisement put out by a group of landowners in PNG, February
Article based on information from: "ADB and Smallholders Agriculture Projects in Papua New Guinea", June
2003, Briefing Paper prepared by Lee Tan, Australian Conservation Foundation/Friends of the Earth Australia, e-
mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , sent by Chris Lang.
THE CARBON SHOP FILES
- Indigenous Peoples and Climate Negotiations
As members of the global indigenous peoples' health caucus, Committee on Indigenous Health members
prepared a number of technical briefing papers for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – most of us
who were attending the second session were focussed on the activities of the so-called UN specialised
programmes and bodies. To most of the world today, this maze-like array of formidable, monolithic organisations
are confusing enough to understand; for indigenous and tribal peoples, communities and their mostly rural or
desert/forest-based organisations, they more often than not represent well-armed, determined organs of all hues
of institutionalised colonialism – neo-liberal colonialism, bio-colonialism, the "un" free market and globalisation.
The Economic and Social Council’s new baby – the Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues is a functional
commission that was established in 2000, one of the achievements of the International Decade of the World’s
Indigenous People. With a bewildering mandate that covers socio-economic, environment, health, culture,
education and human rights issues, the Forum’s members as well as the observers who attend its sessions are all
in the same boat, looking for an effective rudder and fair winds.
It was clearly evident by the second session that for indigenous peoples, the Forum has a mandate that is very
different from our expectations, quite different from the Sub-Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous
Populations (WGIP). The concerns for us are growing as we become increasingly aware that the working
methods and decision making process of the Forum has large gaps and weaknesses that need to be addressed
very swiftly if we are to get any coherent sense and useful function out of this new body.
Evidently, there is lots to learn and we are all "learning by doing", as many specialised organs and bodies of the
UN are fond of saying. The problem with this approach is that very little is actually learnt too late by too few by this
doing. The danger in this is that many indigenous peoples and small communities are in a desperate struggle for
survival and extinction is too near, and this form of learning is really too expensive for us.
Take for example, the negotiations and process under the Kyoto Protocol of the Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC). As an indigenous person involved in the anti-dams campaign in my own province in
India, I participated in a lobbying tour of some selected Western European countries during late May and early
June which culminated in a press briefing during the 18th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and
Technical Advice (SBSTA) of the Kyoto Protocol in Bonn. This protocol was adopted to implement and make
possible some very unrealistic targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions for the so-called Annex-1
countries (the industrialised culprits of global warming) provided in the Framework Convention.
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
The Kyoto Protocol and its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a notoriously cynical and vicious new
arrangement and mechanism to convert the last frontier after the "commons" - the very air we breathe and live by
- into a private, market driven "bazaar" of futures of enclosed atmospheric spaces. In the near future, you may
find that not only your lands and forests but the air above and around your village has been sold and owned by
some multi- or trans-national company with foreign shareholders in a distant land. The World Bank set up its
Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF) to "learn by doing" how to fund destructive and unsustainable and highly
controversial projects such as large dams and mono-culture plantations through private parties. These projects
are theoretically within the purview of the Bank's operational policies for indigenous peoples, environment,
forests, gender, etc. but they hardly see them being applied because it is "learning by doing". Meanwhile,
indigenous communities in South East Asia along the Mekong, in Indonesia, in Uganda, in Guatemala, in Minas
Gerais and Espirito Santo in Brazil are deprived of their lands, water, rivers, health and livelihoods. So, we learn.
For how much longer?
The CDM has no space for indigenous peoples, just as ten years down the line since the Earth Summit of 1992
we have none at the UNFCCC and its Protocol, despite indigenous peoples being one of the "major groups" and
our Rio and Johannesburg declarations and plans of actions, Agenda 21, and so on. In fact, the CDM has nothing
to do actually with climate change! For, developed countries would continue to burn fossil fuels at ever increasing
rates while they buy ever cheaper fictitious carbon credits to feel justified and morally cleansed for polluting and
ultimately destroying Earth. The CDM is another global market, "it is not about charity" and "it is not about
development" as a government representative involved in the climate negotiations candidly revealed.
Organisations, brokers and certification mechanisms for clean and sustainable development practices have
suddenly mushroomed in the West, highly paid consultants with Bachelors degrees in accountancy from strange
institutions travel hurriedly to our distant lands to "inspect" project sites and "consult" with stakeholders, constantly
looking at their watches and electronic notebooks, and ultimately to validate and write certificates that are
meaningless to us but would do us great harm.
So why do we continue to engage at all with such processes filled with lies and devoid of morality and true
commitments? We are now, whether we like it or want it or not, forced to play this game in the field we have
agreed upon, by the rules we have acquiesced to, so we have to play it well or never show up. With this belief, we
shall continue to attempt and support any activity that can enhance the usefulness and effectiveness of the
Forum. We must continue to encourage and exhort the specialised UN agencies and bodies to become sensitive
to our voices, to respect our rights, and work with them within a mutually respectful and consultative, cooperative
partnership to achieve our objectives. We must prise our way into these difficult negotiations, not leave it to
NGOs, claim our legitimate places and work our role if we believe that these can serve our collective aspirations
and agenda. We must also have the courage to reject them outright and claim no part to these negotiations if they
are proven to be destructive to us, devoid of morality and political commitment. That is the only way we can play a
constructive and positive role. The question, is this enough?
By: D. Roy Laifungbam, CORE, Manipur, India Member, Committee on Indigenous Issues, 23 June 2003, edited
and sent by Jutta Kill, SinksWatch, e-mail: email@example.com
- Land Grab in Uganda in Preparation for CDM Sinks Projects?
Just as the World Bank has named Uganda as one of the African countries to benefit from its three carbon
finance funds (Prototype Carbon Fund, Bio Carbon Fund and the Community Development Carbon Fund),
information about an unprecedented ‘land grab’, opening Uganda’s public forests to private development, begins
Earlier this year, several officials of the Ugandan government received large concessions for land suitable for
afforestation and reforestation. In response to public concern in Uganda, the Ministry of Water, Lands and
Environment issued a statement arguing that these land allocations were to be seen as part of a process by the
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
ministry to ‘revitalise’ degraded forest reserves by releasing them for private development through the Department
of Forestry. Land allocations under this new policy can be obtained by application. Among the officials whose
applications were successful in receiving sizeable areas of land were not only the former vice-president Dr.
Specioza Kazimbwe but also some familiar with the climate negotiations. In contrast, communities also applying
for the concessions were left empty-handed.
It is too early still to expect any concrete projects emerging from these land allocations, but these allocations are
indication of a worrisome trend – namely that carbon sinks credits will speed up private sector involvement in
Uganda’s forests. In the past, the private sector has been reluctant in getting involved in afforestation activities in
so-called degraded areas, and the government is now promoting carbon credits as a new incentive to entice
private sector involvement in Uganda’s forests. Most of these public forests are presently ‘free access’ forest,
much of it used by rural communities. Allocation of these public lands to private enterprises is likely to curtail
public access to these areas, thus exacerbating the already precarious situation of many of Uganda’s rural poor.
If past experience with carbon sinks is anything to go by, there is even more reason for concern: in 2000, the
Norwegian NGO Norwatch exposed a scandalous project in Uganda involving the Norwegian company Tree
Farms. The project in the Bukaleba Forestry Reserve was meant to ‘offset’ greenhouse gas emissions’ of a coal
fired power plant to be built in Norway (see WRM Bulletin 35). At the time, NGOs were alerted to the project
because it threatened to evict some 7000 people living on the land to be turned into a carbon offset project.
International criticism at the time stopped the project from claiming carbon credits to ‘offset’ the power plant
emissions, but nonetheless, the project continued and trees were planted. After lengthy negotiations, the
Norwegian owners accepted to allocate less than 5% of the land they received from the government ‘at bargain
price’ to the local people previously threatened with eviction. The eucalyptus trees planted on the remaining land
however exude a gummy substance, an apparent sign of stress. The eucalyptus chosen appears to have been a
poor choice for the site. Local people state that they are paid very low wages and that most of the labour is not
By: Jutta Kill, SinksWatch, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.sinkswatch.org
- Plantar: World Bank acknowledges spreading incorrect allegations
Described by carbon market analysts as a ‘PR disaster’, the World Bank Prototype Carbon Fund’s Plantar project
continues to add to the impression that ‘no carbon credits’ are good ‘carbon credits’. In a ‘Note on the Plantar
PCF Project’ the World Bank recently acknowledged that allegations by the Brazilian plantations company Plantar
S. A. regarding falsified signatures on the first in a series of Brazilian civil society letters outlining the problems
with the companies carbon sinks project were incorrect. Whilst Brazilian groups welcomed the statement, the
World Bank note provides no indication that procedures for verifying information provided by project proponents
might have changed as a result.
Brazilian organizations and movements also responded to the World Bank’s proposal to rely on an FSC
investigation of the Plantar project (Plantar’s plantations are also partially certified by the Forest Stewardship
Council) rather than carry out its own investigation into NGO allegations about intimidation of communities in
relation with the PCF project, as announced on 06 June 2003:
"We regret your resistance in wanting to discuss "questions of such broad scope", contradicting initiatives of your
Bank in wanting to contribute to the debate about "sustainable development" in Brazil. We know that the slogan of
the PCF is "learning by doing". In this sense, if the Plantar project intends to be an exercise in knowing better the
projects that involve large-scale tree monocultures, it is of fundamental importance to understand the context of a
project of this type at a local, regional, national and international level, besides understanding its social, cultural,
economical and environmental implications in the country where it is being implemented. In view of the above, we
have the following proposals to make:
WRM BULLETIN # 74 September 2003
1) That the dialogue between the World Bank and us is a direct one, without involvement of the SCS, FSC-Brasil
2) That a meeting is held between the World Bank and the signatories of this letter, a possibility that has been
mentioned by the Bank itself in some occasions; we even accept that not all the signatories can be present at this
meeting, but we do not accept at all that a conversation takes place between the Bank and only some signatories
of the letters. The agenda of such a meeting would include the contents of the different letters sent by us to the
3) The World Bank should make its own evaluation of the project, independently; we alert you to the fear and
inhibition that the workers and the communities feel in front of the company; this calls for field visits without the
presence of the company; we are willing to accompany these visits."
The ball is now in the World Bank’s court. Demonstrating that ‘learning by doing’ is more than empty rethoric for
the PCF will require a much more genuine effort to address the concerns raised by Brazilian organisations than
the Bank has shown so far.
Watch the carbon shop files for a continuation of the Plantar saga.
Full text of the World Bank "Note on the Plantar PCF Project" at http://www.prototypecarbonfund.org
The 4th letter of Brazilian civil society groups to the PCF can be downloaded at http://www.sinkswatch.org and
By: Jutta Kill, SinksWatch, e-mail: email@example.com, http://www.sinkswatch.org