Archive for June 27th, 2011

Right to Food: Ecologically based agriculture

Right to Food: Ecologically based agriculture

Posted 18 June 2011, by Ranil Senanayake, GroundViews, groundviews.org

Background:
“We” said the villager holding his dying child in that unspeakable agony only parents in such situations know, “don’t want the right to vote, just the right to live”.  In that statement lies the truth that seems to elude most development work.  There is a deeper human need than democracy or the right to vote, the right to life.  The more we look to science to validate modern society, the more evident becomes the conclusion that we humans share the same evolutionary heritage as all other life on this planet.  This evolutionary heritage, one of evolving to sustain genetic information through environments that vary in time, tells us that adaptation can only be made within finite limits.  All living things stressed beyond these limits die.  It is as simple as that.  Heat or cool a bacterium, algae or elephant beyond a certain threshold and they die.  The same holds true for all elements of the environment whether they be as innocuous as salt or as toxic as strychnine.  This is life, the ability to maintain ourselves without approaching the thresholds that reduce our capacity to exist as living beings.  The right to sustain conditions that are benign to life is the most fundamental right that can be recognized for any human.  Until this right has been recognized, how can we answer the plea of that parent?

We address the human condition so eloquently these days, but is it not time to address the human being? For instance, we are ready to spend billions on the war on poverty.  We are in a race all across the planet to have the best definition of poverty so it can be made into a fundable engine of growth.  Will poverty be defined as a lack of clean water, food and access to health care?  Where will it be recognized as an erosion of the right to life? Or will it be defined in handy economic terms where a change in settings will address the problem?   Unfortunately in the latter solution, any change of settings in the economic system can only be done with the full participation of those who benefit greatly from the current settings.  Changing the rules may not be so easy.  As the cynic at the political convention commented ” It is wise to remember the golden rule – It is he/she who has the gold that makes the rules”

It is in this context that we should examine food security and food sovereignty. The production of food has been the domain of the farming and fishing communities from beyond history. The strong links that farmers had to their land was severed by the introduction of industrial farming and the ‘Green Revolution’. Traditional knowledge that has sustained humanity for over three thousand years was discounted and replaced with a high energy dependent, biodiversity poor, toxic method of farming which has been supported and financed by the international banking system.

Lessons learnt:
However, recent research has begun to demonstrate the dangers inherent in the industrial approach and It has been pointed out that governments and international agencies urgently need to boost ecological farming techniques to increase food production and save the climate,” (De Schutter 2010). This call comes as the international system begins to realize that ‘modern’ agriculture discounted traditional approaches and the data on the value of utilizing tradition approaches are legion.

In Sri Lanka the tradition of selective hand weeding resulted in a crop increase of over 400% in Rice paddies (National Geographic). In Africa It has been shown that a 79% increase crop increase has been obtained through cultural and ecological approaches to agriculture (Petty 2003).

Tree planting methods have changed the environments of thousands of hectares of Sahelian desert to more sustainable ecosystems in Tanzania, Senegal and Mali.

Analog Forestry projects in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador and Viet Nam have increased both crop and non-crop biodiversity by over 150%. The potential of Analog Forestry to reverse the trends into annual crops have been demonstrated clearly (Senanayake and Jack 1998 )

Given these experiences why does the international system insist on promoting and funding high energy input monocultures as the way forward in modern agriculture ?

One reason may stem from the perspective of agriculture promoted by many international consultants and ‘experts’ who continue to define agricultural goals for the international system. The following statement to a CGIAR meeting illustrates this point.

The primary objective of agriculture is not to enhance the resource base on which agriculture depends, and certainly not to enhance environmental quality.  These requirements therefore seem to reflect the views of advocates of sustainable agriculture in Western countries rather than the views of farmers in developing countries. Harmsen and Kelley ( in Press)”

This rapacious perspective of agriculture is certainly not shared by most traditional societies.  In fact this view of agriculture is alien to the traditional farmer who takes pride in the appearance of the field, stock and the appearance of the home.  It would be antithetical to the ‘Cultivator-to-plant-”I-thou” relationship of indigenous people (Wilkes 1991).

However, it is precisely this view, that agriculture should not enhance its resource base, that has allowed the international system to have an increasing influence on the evolution of a non-sustainable type of agriculture, in practically all the nations of this world.  It has also contributed greatly to the discounting and demise of traditional agriculture.

Sustainable Agriculture:
Agriculture is production of food medicines and fiber by biological systems.  Thus agricultural sustainability must consider biological sustainability.  In a biological sense, sustainability is the potential to recover from perturbation and stress (Conway, 1985).  A sustainable system oscillates between inflexible boundary conditions.  If the boundary conditions are exceeded, a change in state occurs so that the system loses its original identity and potential.  Thus, the sustainability of this system is determined by its boundary conditions as well as its internal dynamics.  A biological entity is a product of its temporal and genetic history in varying environments.  There are environmental thresholds that cannot be transcended without extinction.  While acclimatization often allows an individual or species to change its measured thresholds (McLeese, 1956), there exist lethal thresholds beyond which an organism cannot transcend (Hart, 1957).  So, sustainability when applied in the biological context will be seen to be defined by inflexible boundaries. If the degree of perturbation or stress makes it transcend the boundaries it looses its identity as an organism or an ecosystem.

Agrarian societies with long histories, posses the credibility of having  sustained themselves successfully under the rigor of survival in a natural world.  The concern for the future is that the model chosen for sustaining future global agrarian society is an energy and resource demanding production system.  No investment is being put into developing traditional societies.

The burgeoning populations of the future may have no other option than high energy input agriculture to sustain them simply because we have not invested in examining any other option.  Some of the reasoning may lie in thinking that feeding a rapidly growing world population, a socioeconomic problem, can be resolved through reductionist, technological approaches (Lappe and Collins 1986, Conway and Barbier 1990).  However, it is becoming evident that the present resource expensive system of agrarian production will become increasingly more expensive to maintain.  This phenomenon is a result of increasing input costs and decreasing productivity of the land.  The predicted global climate effects will also make large areas of monocultures risky.  Thus there may be value in examining other options.

The value in maintaining diversity is the constant availability of a large number of options.  This applies equally well, whether in the case of marketing products or responding to disease or episodic climatic event.  Thus the question to be examined by designers of global society is ‘how much diversity can be conserved within the emerging global society?  If the lessons learnt at the level of local societies are anything to go by, the goals of sustainability will be achieved best by conserving the diversity of global society.

The biological system was viewed as nature and personified.  Gaia, Pacha Mama, Pattini, Valli Amma are but some examples.  The natural constrains that nature placed upon human production systems, were dealt with over years of experimentation and the resulting information encoded into traditional belief systems.  Thus the phenomena of forest maturity was incorporated into the traditions of swidden farmers and the ecological characteristics of wet rice production encoded into the cultural activity of Asian societies.  Modern research is demonstrating the values that biodiversity have on  production systems.  The innovative use of biodiversity is a hallmark of all traditional cultures.

Organic Farming:
Organic Farming, arose from a need to produce clean food and sustain a healthy environment.  Organic farming, seeks to re-establish the balance that was maintained between farmers and the land for centuries.  In contrast to the observations of decreasing biodiversity in monoculture situations, the pattern of increasing ecological stability with increasing diversity in land use is corroborated by studies of traditional land managers, whose management systems are sustainable and conserve a much higher level of biodiversity than conventional responses (Altieri et al 1987).  High levels of diversity in the agricultural field produce positive effects of biological control, spread the risk in marketing and production, as well as distributing labor needs to fit with a single family unit (Conway1987).

The important question is how do we identify success in organic production?  Is the mere non-use of prohibited items meet with success?  Has the maintaining of biodiversity of value; has the sequestration of carbon or other ecological services any value?  Under the criteria that have been adopted for organic certification, such considerations have no value. Moving to sustainable production must take all ecosystem services into account.

Today we witness a radical change in the practice of agriculture.  Both the ‘Green Revolution’ and  ‘Industrial Agriculture’ with its emphasis on energy subsidies to overcome constraints in increasing production, has brought about an enormous change in the biodiversity and sustainability status of agriculture.  The impact of this high energy input, low biodiversity agriculture has not only been felt on the sustainability of Ecosystems.  It has also impacted the sustainability of cultural systems.  The Ethics of such changes have largely gone unaddressed.

Ethics:
Ethics is loose currency in a world justified only by ‘objective’ science.  Yet, it is this very blind faith in ‘objectivity’ that has contributed to the collapse of social relations as seen in the ever-increasing rates of crime and social dislocation in ‘developed’ societies.  This dilemma is clearly brought into focus by the question posed by Upali Senanayake at the first conference on Agricultural Sustainability (Douglaas 1984) Answering a question as to ‘what is so important in maintaining ethics as a value in an objective scientific community’ he answered with the question; “If you are completely ‘objective’ and place no value in ethics, then how can I trust you? By this question he highlighted the value in ethics in maintaining social contracts.

The role of ethics and spirituality has been central to the development of humanity over history.  The discounting of its value in favor of ‘objective’ science may have contributed greatly to the present trend of reducing local agricultural sustainability and biodiversity.  Perhaps it is time to examine a new set of criteria that can advance human development towards real sustainability.

Responsibility:
The call for the rights of farmers to be recognized is indeed valid, but we should not forget that with all rights there are also corresponding responsibilities that have to be recognized as well. In calling for the right to food, we have to recognize that the right to food does not stop at the farm gate or community boundary. There are more human beings living in urban or peri urban situations than ever before. They too have a right to food and it becomes the responsibility of those who manage the food production to attend to their needs. Thus, until those calling for the rights of the farming community to produce food also call for the responsibility of the farming community to feed the urban population, it will be difficult to reform the current status quo and  challenge industrial food production.

Organic agriculture and the elimination of toxins from the food production system will ensure our right to clean food.  It is also clear that well managed small farms demonstrate the greatest potential for meeting these aims. However, ecologically based agriculture will need to consider, the level of output required by each ecosystem under management and recognize the fact that if a small farm is required to produce more than merely sustaining the farmer and his/her family, some level of external input will be required to balance the substantial outflow. Optimizing this input should be the goal.

References :

  • Conway, G, R, and E.B.Barbier 1990 After the Green Revolution, sustainable agriculture for development. Earthscan Publications, London.
  • Douglaas Gordon K. 1983 (ed.) Agricultural Sustainability in a Changing World Order pp 227-307. Boulder, Colorado.
  • Olivier De Schutter, while presenting the findings at an
  • international meeting on agroecology held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June.
  • Jules Petty 2003 Rethinking Agriculture as if the real world matters, University of Essex
  • Hart, J.S. (1957)  Climatic and temperature induced changes in the energetics of homeotherms.  Reviews in Canadian Biology, 16.
  • Harmsen and Kelley ( in Press). CGIAR, Jakarata meeting 2001
  • Lappe, F.M. and J.Collins 1986 World Hunger, Twelve Myths. Food First, Grove Press, New York.
  • McLeese, D.W. (1956)  Effects of temperature, salinity and oxygen on the survival of the American lobster.  Journal of the Fisheries , Resources Board of Canada, 26, 247-272.
  • Senanayake R. and John J Jack  1998 Analog Forestry: An Introduction, Analog Forestry: An  Introduction. Monash University Publications. Monash Univ.Clayton,. Vic. Australia
  • Wilkes, G. 1991 In Situ Conservation of Agricultural systems In Biodiversity: Culture, Conservation and Ecodevelopment (eds M.L.Oldfield and J.B.Alcorn). Westview Press, Boulder, Colo.

http://groundviews.org/2011/06/18/right-to-food-ecologically-based-agriculture/

1 Million Acres of Grand Canyon Watershed Protected From Uranium Mining

1 Million Acres of Grand Canyon Watershed Protected From Uranium Mining

Posted 20 June 2011, by Staff, Indigenous Action Media, indigenousaction.org

For Immediate Release

1 Million Acres of Grand Canyon Watershed Protected From Uranium Mining

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended interim protections from uranium mining today for Grand Canyon’s 1-million-acre watershed through the end of 2011; the secretary also announced his support for a 20-year mineral withdrawal across the same area. Both protections ban new claims and block new mining on existing, unproven claims.

The announcement quells fears that a two-year mining prohibition issued by Salazar in July 2009 would expire, opening the door to new mining claims and resulting mine development. Public lands around Grand Canyon National Park have been ground zero for new uranium mining that threatens to industrialize iconic wildlands and permanently pollute aquifers feeding Grand Canyons springs and streams.

“The world would never forgive the permanent pollution of Grand Canyon’s precious aquifers and springs or the industrialization of its surrounding wildlands,” said Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The only sure way to prevent pollution of the Grand Canyon is to prevent uranium mining, and today’s action makes important progress toward that goal.”

Salazar today directed the Bureau of Land Management to designate the withdrawal of the full 1-million-acre watershed from new mining claims as its preferred alternative in its ongoing environmental analysis of the issue, scheduled to be released in the fall.

“This is good news for the Grand Canyon, but we are disappointed that Secretary Salazar continues to show such enthusiasm for the mining of existing claims,” said Serraglio. “We hope the ‘caution, wisdom and science’ cited by the secretary as being so important in managing this precious area will lead to strong decisions to protect it from further pollution by uranium mining.”

Uranium pollution already plagues the Grand Canyon region. Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation and proposed legislation. Scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have voiced opposition to new mining operations. Dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize stunning and often sacred wildlands, destroy wildlife habitat and permanently pollute or deplete aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s biologically rich springs.

The segregation and withdrawal would prohibit new mining claims and mining on claims without “valid existing rights” to mine. Several claims within the withdrawal area that predate the 2009 segregation order will be grandfathered in; those are still vulnerable to mining.

In 2009 the Bureau of Land Management allowed mining to resume at the Arizona 1 mine within the withdrawal area and immediately north of Grand Canyon without first updating 1980s-era environmental reviews. The Havasupai Tribe, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, the Center, Sierra Club and Grand Canyon Trust challenged that mine’s reopening in federal court — one of four lawsuits brought by the Center relating to uranium mining in the region since 2008. That suit is ongoing.

“Grand Canyon and the surrounding areas are some of the most recognized and prized landscapes in the United States. Allowing further uranium mining would cause untold damage and leave future generations asking why we didn’t do more to stop it,” Serraglio said. “That’s why we’ll keep defending the Grand Canyon and working to reform the antiquated 1872 mining law so that federal agencies finally have clear authority to deny mining proposals that threaten irretrievable damage to our public lands.”

 

http://www.indigenousaction.org/1-million-acres-of-grand-canyon-watershed-protected-from-uranium-mining/

Indonesian forest people condemn climate scheme

 

Indonesian forest people condemn climate scheme

 

Posted 27 June 2011, by Staff, Pakistan Observer, pakobserver.net

Jakarta—Indigenous peoples of Indonesian Borneo on Wednesday demanded a halt to internationally backed forest conservation schemes, saying they are trampling their rights and robbing their lands.

The Central Kalimantan chapter of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance issued a statement condemning the projects, including those being implemented under a $1 billion deal with Norway to cut carbon emissions from deforestation.

The projects, which also involve the Australian government, CARE International and WWF environmental group, fall under a UN-backed conservation drive known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Indigenous alliance secretary general Abdon Nababan said the rights of traditional landowners had been ignored, and forest-dependent communities faced being driven off their lands or denied their customary livelihoods.

“REDD could be the cause of cultural genocide as most indigenous people live in primary forests and peatland areas” which fall under a forestry moratorium announced by the Indonesian government last month, he told AFP.

“Its implementation will surely drive them away, though they have lived there for hundreds or thousands of years,” he added.

Several studies have found that indigenous peoples are good forest managers but Nababan said schemes like REDD — part of UN talks for post-2012 climate action — handed control to corporations and environmental groups.

“There is no other choice but to appoint indigenous people as the REDD projects’ main actors. They have traditional knowledge in managing and safeguarding our forests over centuries,” he said.

The alliance called for an “immediate moratorium” on all REDD projects in Central Kalimantan until various conditions are met, including recognition of the mainly Dayak peoples’ “political sovereignty” and “collective rights”.—AFP

 

http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=99158

Dozens of countries queue up to go nuclear

 

Dozens of countries queue up to go nuclear

Posted 24 June 2011, by Michael Marshall, New Scientist, newscientist.com

IN THE wake of the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in March, several countries have announced plans to reject nuclear power. Japan will not build any more reactors. Germany plans to phase out its nuclear power plants, Switzerland will not replace its reactors, and last week Italy voted against starting a nuclear programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is running an emergency conference this week to identify the key lessons from Fukushima (see “Agency report praises Fukushima staff, slams TEPCO“). So does this mean a decade-long revival of interest in nuclear power is grinding to a halt?

IAEA figures suggest not. They list 65 reactors under construction, and those figures are just the tip of the iceberg because they do not include reactors that are contracted to be built, or those being planned. Neither do they acknowledge the significance of the United Arab Emirates being on course to become the first country to go nuclear since China in 1985: the UAE has signed a deal with a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation to build four reactors. Saudi Arabia is following suit, having announced earlier this month that it will build 16 reactors by 2030. Turkey plans to build two new plants.

Dozens more countries have registered an interest in the nuclear option with the IAEA, though few are likely to follow through, according to Jessica Jewell at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Jewell gathered data on countries with established programmes to work out what it takes to go nuclear. When they started building nuclear power stations, these countries had robust electricity grids, stable, effective governments and big economies that could swallow the upfront costs.

Of 52 countries that have recently asked the IAEA to help them start a nuclear programme only 10 meet all of these criteria, Jewell says. Another 10 had the motivation and resources but were politically unstable (Energy Policy, DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2010.10.041).

That second group includes Egypt, which Jewell reckons is the most likely to gain nuclear power of the five north African countries with stated intentions. Continuing political uncertainty in Egypt makes nuclear an unlikely option there in the near term, however.

Meanwhile, the plants already under construction in established nuclear countries are feeling the ripples of Fukushima. Just under half of the reactors listed as under construction by the IAEA are in China – but following events in Japan, the Chinese government has suspended approvals for new plants while it reviews their safety.

 

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028184.400-dozens-of-countries-queue-up-to-go-nuclear.html

Native Plants May be Able to Stop Invading Species in Their Tracks

Native Plants May be Able to Stop Invading Species in Their Tracks

Posted 23 June 2011, by Staff, Source: Allen Press Publishing Services, NewsWise, newswise.com

Newswise — Nature can have its own solutions to offer against invasive plant species. In the case of the weed cogongrass, woody vegetation at the forest’s edge may stop its progress. By catching seeds blowing in the wind, shrubs can prevent or lessen the impact of an invasion of weeds that will strangle native plants.

A study reported in the current issue of the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management found that woody vegetation may form a natural barrier to the dispersal of seed. Cogongrass is an invasive species that displaces native vegetation and adapts to varying conditions of shade and moisture, making its spread hard to stop. Researchers put a natural barrier to the test against cogongrass.

Pine forests within the Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi served as the study site. Two kinds of barriers were tested: (1) frequently burned areas with an open canopy of pine and tallgrass understory and (2) areas that have not experienced frequent fires where there are closed canopies of pines and hardwoods with a dense midstory of shrubs and small trees. The study utilized three forest sites, each containing both barriers.

A minimum of 50 cogongrass spikelets were released at each location and allowed to be dispersed by the wind into the forest sites. Tallgrass sites saw more spikelets dispersed farther into the forest than sites with dense woody vegetation. The shrubs and trees served to reduce wind speed and intercept the spikelets before they could become established within the forests.

However, cogongrass that is already established may continue to spread on the ground, without the aid of the wind. Woody vegetation cannot defend against this type of invasion, and the study’s authors recommend that forest managers use additional means of control.

Fire increased the spread of cogongrass in both types of study sites. This poses a dilemma for managers seeking to maintain more open forests for other reasons, such as biological diversity. The solution may be to “seal” the edges of the forests with woody vegetation while maintaining the open canopy within.

Full text of the article, “Woody Shrubs as a Barrier to Invasion by Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica),”
Invasive Plant Science and Management
Vol. 4, No. 2, April-June 2011,
is available at http://www.wssajournals.org

###

About Invasive Plant Science and Management
Invasive Plant Science and Management is a broad-based journal that focuses on invasive plant species. It is published four times a year by the Weed Science Society of America, a nonprofit professional society. The Weed Science Society of America promotes research, education, and extension outreach activities related to weeds; provides science-based information to the public and policy makers; and fosters awareness of weeds and their impacts on managed and natural ecosystems. For more information, visit http://www.wssa.net

 

http://www.newswise.com/articles/native-plants-may-be-able-to-stop-invading-species-in-their-tracks

Experts puzzled by big decline in honeybees over winter

Experts puzzled by big decline in honeybees over winter

Posted 22 June 2011, by Alison Benjamin, The Guardian, guardian.co.uk

Honeybee populations declined by 13.6% over the winter, according to a survey of beekeepers across England. Losses were most severe in the north-east, where the survey recorded a loss rate of 17.1%.

Experts worry that the declines will affect plant productivity. There are also concerns that the declines, along with drought conditions in some areas, will mean less English honey this year.

Martin Smith, president of the British Beekeepers Association, which carried out the survey, said: “If this was measured against similar losses in livestock it would be seen as disastrous and there would be great concern on the knock-on impact of food prices.”

Beekeepers are puzzled by the decline because the cold winter and early spring should have favoured bees. They stay “clustered” tightly in their hives when it is cold and dry, saving energy for spring foraging when the temperature rises about 12C.

However, there is good news that the rate of colony loss has slowed. Four years ago, one in three hives was wiped out.

Beekeepers suspect that poor nutrition is a likely cause of weakness in adult bees that makes them succumb to diseases spread by a parasitic mite.

“The varroa mite is the number one reason why people lose bees, so the government needs to increase research to cure diseases caused by varroa,” said Smith. “But a colony that has a good source of pollen and nectar will go into winter stronger and better able to fend off disease.”

The association is calling on everyone who has a garden, however small, to plant bee-friendly plants this summer. “It is really important that there are flowering nectar-rich plants around in August, September and October to provide the nutrition that’s needed so the bees can top up their stores of honey in the hive to see them through winter,” said Smith.

A campaign being launched next week to save all bees, spearheaded by Sam Roddick and Neal’s Yard Remedies, pins the blame for the decline on pesticide. It will start a petition to hand to Downing Street in October to ban the use of a class of pesticides that has been implicated in bee deaths across the world.

Roddick said: “These neonicotinoid pesticides penetrate the plant and indiscriminately attack the nervous system of insects that feed off them, disorientating bees, impairing their foraging ability and weakening their immune system, causing bee Aids. On current evidence, Italy, Germany and Slovenia have banned some varieties. In the UK, it’s up to the people to show the government that if there is any doubt that they are contributing to bee deaths, we need to ban them.”

A spokesman for the government’s National Bee Unit said: “The UK has a robust system for assessing risks from pesticides and all the evidence shows neonicotinoids do not pose an unacceptable risk when products are used correctly, but we will not hesitate to act if presented with any new evidence. ”

He added: “Although we’re pleased the BBKA’s seen fewer overwintering losses, bees continue to be affected by pests, diseases, and the weather. Amid a range of initiatives, we’re training beekeepers, researching varroa mite controls, and improving the availability of medicines.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/22/honeybees-decline-over-winter

Laos Steamrolls Neighbors in Xayaburi Dam Process

 

Laos Steamrolls Neighbors in Xayaburi Dam Process

Posted 23 June 2011, by Staff, International Rivers, internationalrivers.org

For Immediate Release

Government Unilaterally Claims Regional Consultation Process Complete

Bangkok, Thailand: Laos appears to have defied its neighbors in a move to press ahead with the proposed Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong Mainstream, despite concerns raised by neighboring governments and regional civil society groups. A letter leaked to International Rivers, dated June 8, 2011, reveals that the Lao Government has informed the Xayaburi project developer Ch. Karnchang that the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) regional decision-making process is now complete, presumably giving Ch. Karnchang the green light to proceed with the project.

The MRC itself, however, is yet to officially announce the regional process as complete. Previously, at a Special Joint Committee Meeting on April 19, the four member governments agreed to defer the decision on the project to a Ministerial level meeting, likely to take place in October or November 2011. At this Special Joint Committee meeting, whilst Laos proposed to proceed with the dam, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam called for an extension to the decision-making process citing concerns about transboundary impacts and knowledge gaps requiring further study and consultation. Vietnam also recommended that the decision on the Xayaburi Dam and other proposed mainstream dams be deferred for a period of ten years.

The procedures of the MRC’s regional process clearly state in Article 5.4.3 that ‘The MRC [Joint Committee] shall aim to arriving at an agreement on the proposed use and issue a decision that contains the agreed upon conditions.’ “By deciding unilaterally that the regional decision-making process is complete, the Government of Laos has committed an egregious breach of trust and has joined the ranks of rogue nations,” said Ms. Ame Trandem, Mekong Campaigner with International Rivers.

The letter written by the Director-General of Laos’ Ministry of Energy and Mines to the Xayaburi Power Company Limited refers to a one-month study by the international consultancy group Pöyry. The letter states that in Pöyry’s view the “Prior Consultation of the Xayaburi Project has now been completed,” and that the Lao government “hereby confirm[s] that any necessary step in relation to the 1995 Mekong Agreement has been duly taken.”

Conclusion of the PNPCA process is a prerequisite to the Xayaburi Dam developers signing a Power Purchase Agreement with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which the company is now seeking.

“Laos has no entitlement to unilaterally declare the end of the PNPCA process at this stage,” said Ms. Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a Thai Lawyer from the Community Resource Center and member of the Mekong Legal Network. “Chapter 2 of the 1995 Mekong Agreement makes it clear that the regional decision-making process is ‘neither a right to veto the use nor unilateral right to use water by any riparian without taking into account other riparians’ rights’. The three other lower Mekong countries asked for the project to be delayed for further study, including a trans-boundary Environmental Impact Assessment. Laos has an obligation under international law to both conduct such an EIA and negotiate in good faith under the Mekong Agreement before moving forward.”

On April 23, at a meeting in Phnom Penh, the Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Cambodia jointly expressed concern about the Xayaburi Dam’s transboundary impacts to fisheries and agriculture. Subsequently, at the 18th ASEAN summit in Jakarta on 7 May 2011, the Lao Prime Minister agreed to a request by Vietnam’s Prime Minister to temporarily suspend the Xayaburi Dam and commission a review of the project’s documents by an international consultancy firm under the framework of the MRC.

Laos’ Ministry of Energy and Mines had publicly confirmed that the study had been commissioned, yet no further details of the study nor the role of the MRC in this process was announced to the public. It now appears that the study was a cursory, one-month review of the PNPCA process and not a review of the environmental and social impacts of the project.

“It’s no surprise that the Pöyry Group was selected to review the Xayaburi Dam given their long history of dodgy deals that have allowed disastrous dams to proceed in the Mekong region,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers. “But it’s outrageous that Laos would stoop so low as to place its consultants’ opinions above its neighbors concerns. The extensive scientific evidence that demonstrates the dam’s severe social and environmental impacts should no longer be ignored, and the Xayaburi Dam should be cancelled.”

Media Contacts:

A Plea to the International Community: Don’t Forget the Ogoni

 

A Plea to the International Community: Don’t Forget the Ogoni

Posted 20 June 2011, by Ahni, Intercontinental Cry, intercontinentalcry.org

Over the past 50 years, nearly 1.5 million tons of oil has been released into the delicate ecosystem of the Niger Delta in southeast Nigeria. All told, that works out to be about on ‘Exxon Valdez’ spill a year in the Niger Delta each and every year.

But as daunting as that number is, it doesn’t even begin to describe the hardships that the Ogoni people have endured ever since Shell discovered oil there in 1958.

Nor is it enough to talk about the legacy of human rights abuses: the executions, the evictions and raids, the deliberate impoverishment of a people. In effect, the Ogoni have been forced to trade their food, their water, their land, their health and their basic human rights for a single gas generator.

It’s enough to talk about how the Ogoni live. For instance, how an Ogoni fisherman walks waist deep in a polluted river; Or how a single mother uses the light from nearby flare stacks to see around her her at night; or how children play in fields of oil waste like it’s any other day. They know they shouldn’t do it, but it’s been there all their lives. It’s a part of them.

Whatever needs to be said, it’s better to know that the Ogoni haven’t lost hope. They’ve been fighting for their land and rights since day one and they continue to do so.

Their struggle is not in vein. As Kenneth Mukoro describes in the following open letter, the Ogoni would like to return to their normal lives some day. They are using what little resources they have for just that.

Ugheivwen Kingdom: 50 years of Shell exploitation and environmental destruction

By Kenneth Mukoro

The Ugheivwen Kingdom has been a recipient of various peaceful awards but nothing can be shown for 50 Years of Oil Exploration and our environment has been destroyed .

Shell company operating in the Ugheivwen Kingdom host to the Utorogu Gas plant and the Gas Plant Phase 2 and uncountable numbers of well head and flow stations is neglecting the people while destroying the land without any compensation. Shell has been operating in the kingdom for 50 years but nothing can be said of development or infrastructure.

I am sure that you will be surprised at the rate of development, the story of Ogoni Land is still fresh in our hearts but we embrace peace and dialogue. We want the international community to know that the Federal Government and the Shell Petroleum Development Company is neglecting the plight of the of Ugheivwen Kingdom, the only livelihood of the people which is fishing, hunting and farming is totally destroyed by the operations of Shell. The air is polluted by the constant gas flaring that has destroyed the ecological system of the forest and also in the community.

Our river banks are blocked by the wall protecting oil wells head directly opposite the River (Well 6 Otu-jeremi Utorogu area Delta state Nigeria), so we don’t have access to the river which is the means for surviving. And nothing is paid in compensation to the people of this kingdom which supplies gas to most part of west Africa for electricity. There is darkness in the villages while the Shell installation has Turbine Plants to generate electricity.

We will not relent to say the truth if the Shell company is not ready to help the Ugheivwen people according to Shell policy we will advise the SPDC to vacate the land so the People of the Kingdom can return to their normal lives.

We hope that the truth will be exposed so that the people of Ugheivwen will be given attention and the issue of the GMOU looked into. We advise Shell and the Federal Government to review the programme so that it will be of benefit to the 32 communities that makes up the Kingdom.

Please bring our plight to the notice of the international community. We want peace to remain as it used to be in the Kingdom. We want dialogue to settle the above matters.


http://intercontinentalcry.org/a-plea-to-the-international-community-dont-forget-the-ogoni/