Posts Tagged ‘fish’

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

OTTAWA TARSANDS ACTION – Why am I attending?

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Posted 24 September 2011, by George Poitras, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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George Poitras is a former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation

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George Poitras

In the past year and even more so in the past few weeks a lot of debate has focused on the tarsands in northeastern Alberta as “ethical oil.” Advertisements taken out on the Oprah Winfrey Network by EthicalOil.org, why Oprah Winfrey has endorsed this propaganda by big oil is anyone’s guess?! The advertisement suggests why should America be dependent on Saudi Arabian oil, “a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” That there is a better alternative, “Ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands.” Apparently meaning a more human alternative.

Names synonymous of this “ethical oil” notion include Alykhan Velshi, Ezra Levant. Proponents who happily began to espouse the controversial two words include Canadian politicians like environment minister Peter Kent and prime minister Stephen Harper as they traverse the globe promoting investment in the tarsands.

The tarsands have been mined, primarily open-pit, for the past 40 years in what is known as the traditional lands of many Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nations. The total tarsands deposit, the size of England, is known to be the second largest oil deposit in the world, second to Saudi Arabia. Only 3% of the total deposit has been mined in the past 40 years and Dr. David Schindler, a world renowned water expert, proved last year that there has been virtually no monitoring of what has also been characterized the largest industrial project in the world. A claim that the local Indigenous peoples have made for decades with proof of deformed fish, observation of poor water quality, receding water levels, impacts to animal health, and more recently in Fort Chipewyan, an increase in rare and aggressive cancers.

Tarsands a humane alternative?

When local physician Dr. John O’Connor raised concerns of disproportionate numbers of unusual cancers in Fort Chipewyan in 2006, the government of Canada, or physicians from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch lodged complaints against him including a charge of “causing undue alarm” to residents of my community of Fort Chipewyan. Canada’s charges against a family physician has never before been heard of in the history of Canada. For my community of Fort Chipewyan, this unprecedented action by the government of Canada essentially signaled to us that Canada didn’t care what claims Dr. O’Connor was making or that people in Fort Chipewyan might be living in a situation with an epidemic of rare and aggressive cancers. The claims were eventually proven by an Alberta Cancer Board Study in 2009 because of our unrelenting efforts; perhaps we shamed the Canadian and Alberta governments into doing so by successfully making our concerns a part of the international debate of this “dirty oil” campaign and not because the governments felt it was the “ethical” or “humane” thing to do.

Despite this, both the Alberta and Canadian governments continue to this day, to deny there is any concern with cancers in Fort Chipewyan.

The governments of Alberta and Canada have for the past 15 years relied on the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) to monitor the Athabasca River and the fish health. Every study since then has concluded that there was little to no impacts from tarsands development on the water or the fish health. A position that was proven wrong by Dr. David Schindler. Essentially, the RAMP which is 100% funded by the oil companies and who’s data is proprietary, and the Alberta and Canadian governments have been lying to the downstream impacted communities but also to Albertans and Canadians. They both shamefully admitted this following Schindler’s study just days before Christmas in 2010.

Fishermen in Fort Chipewyan have been saving deformed, tumoured, discoloured, and other problem fish for many years. Many residents in my community have chosen not to eat any fish from the Athabasca River or Lake Athabasca, a sad commentary to impacts on a peoples way of living. In June 1970, a Suncor pipeline break spilled 19,123 barrels of oil, roughly 3 million liters, into the Athabasca River which reached Lake Athabasca. This shut down the fishing industry on Lake Athabasca for two consecutive years. The fishermen held a press conference in October 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta displaying many of the collection of problem fish. This generated further international attention to the tarsands industry and its impacts to water and fish health.

Indigenous leaders in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan have been chastised by oil company executives when they speak publicly to the press about their concerns of impacts from tarsands. They have gone so far as threatening, that should the Indigenous leaders continue, there would be repercussions to their First Nation-owned company’s contracts within certain oil company sites. Oil company executives regularly question the Indigenous leaders when their own community members speak out publicly on issues and I have seen those members silenced.

Two years ago I attended a protest in Trafalgar Square in London, England. We drew a crowd of about 500 supporters and this protest generated so much publicity internationally by England’s BBC and Canada’s CBC who were present and did live interviews. Three weeks after this action which I dubbed the “bloody oil tour” an executive from a major oil company flew to my community to meet with my Chief & Council and in no uncertain terms stated that they didn’t like that I traveled internationally and generated so much negative publicity on the tarsands industry. They also stated that they knew of all my actions in the past years because they said they had a binder “this thick” to prove it. He further suggested that somehow I should be “silenced” or even “terminated” or there would be repercussions. Two weeks later, the First Nation-owned company contracts worth millions were terminated displacing approximately 65 employees. I chose to leave my employment shortly thereafter.

An ethical, humane future for impacted communities?

In a recent trip to the Amazon and in conversation with a colleague from Nigeria, I told him many of our issues, our concerns, the repercussions we receive for being vocal. He was in complete disbelief. He said in a million years he would not believe all of this would occur in Canada, a developed G8 country. He said Canada is known as a safe country for its citizens. Canada is known as a country that prides itself for protection of human rights within its own borders and beyond.

I also tell my fellow leaders in Fort Chipewyan and to those young, brave members of my community, that the repercussions for speaking publicly is nothing compared to what we will see in the future. That if only 3% of the total deposit has been mined and the environmental impacts are so significant, that there will be many more generations of our people who will take up this challenge and they will face much more backlash than what we are seeing today from what has become a ruthless and aggressive race to exploit the tarsands. That many of our people will continue to see the early demise of their lives from rare and aggressive cancers the same way we watched our youngest victim at the age of 28 succumb to his cancer just months after being diagnosed. That if we see our environment in such a negative state today, do we think that we are capable of handing down to future generations a healthy environment? That if Canada and Alberta today ignore and repeatedly, knowingly infringe on our Constitutionally protected Treaty Rights, will our future generations be able to meaningfully exercise their right to hunt, fish and trap? Will our people in 20 years from now be able to enjoy a traditional diet of fish, moose, ducks, geese, caribou?

While I do not condone any ill-treatment on women in Saudi Arabia, Indigenous peoples in Canada’s tarsands should not be a pawn or be sacrificed to allow certainty for Canada, Alberta and multinational corporations to exploit the tarsands at all costs! From an Indigenous perspective, watching and being victim to the 40 years of unrelenting, unfettered, unmonitored development of the tarsands, there is nothing “ethical” or “humane” about the development of the tarsands!

I will be in Ottawa on Monday, September 26th to oppose the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline because an approval means an expansion of production of tarsands by a million barrels a day, further exacerbating local Indigenous peoples grave concerns about the development of the tarsands.

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/cree-george-poitras-ottawa-tarsands.html

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China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology


China’s Solar Technology Pollutes Local Ecology

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Posted 21 September 2011, by Li Le, The Epoch Times, theepochtimes.com

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Angry villagers argue with Jinko Solar staff over its pollution in Yuanhua Township, Zhejiang Province, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

A four-day protest outside a solar manufacturing plant in a small Chinese township illustrates the harsh realities of China’s green energy manufacturing boom. While China is producing solar products for export at cutthroat prices, Chinese people get none of the green benefits. Instead they have to put up with the manufacturers’ cancer-causing pollution and get beaten up by police if they talk about it.

Villagers from Yuanhua Township of Haining City in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province had enough of a local solar company’s pollution. Anywhere between five hundred and a thousand local people staged a four-day protest that began on Sept. 15, to try and hold Jinko Solar Holding Co. accountable for its pollution and force an investigation into local residents increased cancer rate.

Authorities dispatched riot police who injured many protesters. Two local reporters who were on location were beaten by the solar company’s employees.

Jinko Solar Holding Co. is a manufacturer of solar silicon wafers and ingots. It was established in 2006 and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Local villagers told New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) that Jinko Solar Holding Co., has been discharging waste water since moving into the Hongxiao Village of Yuanghua Township in 2006. The pollution has caused fish to die and is threatening local people’s health.

Mr. Zhou, a villager, told The Epoch Times: “More than 10 villagers have developed leukemia and dozens have developed other cancers. We have been living in fear, and been constantly lodging complaints regarding the pollution to local authorities and the Jinko company.”

Because neither the authorities nor Jinko responded to their numerous requests, villagers went to the county government on Sept. 15 and demanded Jinko’s closure. But no one at the county government responded to them, so the villagers went on to Jinko’s, but were refused entry. Angry villagers then broke down the gate and rushed into the plant where they vandalized offices and work areas, Zhou said.

Protesters overturn and vandalize a vehicle; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (Posted to an Internet forum by a Chinese blogger)

Jinko staff called the police, which quickly arrived, totaling one or two thousand. Police used tear gas to disperse people, injuring many, and took away an unknown number of villagers, according to Zhou.

One netizen said on a blog that he witnessed police beating even young girls and the elderly. He said he saw four police beating one elderly person.

Another netizen said: “A girl, aged 17 or 18, was chased and beaten into a coma and somehow fell into the river. Her body has not been recovered.”

Chinese media reported that protesters overturned eight cars in the solar company’s parking lot and damaged four police vehicles.

According to Zhejian Online News, Jinko staff beat two reporters from Zhejiang TV. The reporters’ video camera was also smashed and tapes were taken.

An NTDTV reporter called Jinko on the afternoon of Sept. 15. The person who answered acknowledged that there was a protest but would not provide details.

Haining municipal authorities announced on Sept. 17 that Jinko was ordered to stop production and that a villager surnamed Sun had been arrested for spreading “untruthful information” over the Internet.

Sun had posted information about the pollution produced by Jinko, saying it caused local people to have health problems.

Mr. Guo, a local resident, told The Epoch Times that a few years ago several young women working at Jinko had health checks because they weren’t able to get pregnant. Medical checkup revealed that they had radiation damage and would never be able to have children. After that came out, young women who planned on having families avoided working for the company, Guo said.

Local authorities dispatch riot police to squash the protest; Yuanhua Township, Sept. 15. (Weibo.com)

Some Internet postings said that the company is located 300 meters (984 ft.) away from a daycare center and only 100 meters away from an elementary school, and that the impact on the health of the children and neighboring residents is devastating.

According to latest reports by Chinese media, local authorities have detained 31 people, while Haning Environmental Protection Department fined Jinko 470,000 yuan (US$75,625).

Local villagers said they are not satisfied with the outcome; they want Jinko to leave Haning City.

The production of silicon involves high energy consumption and high pollution, Hu Chuli, director of the Institute for Industrial and Technical Economic Studies, National Development and Reform Commission, said at China’s Low Carbon Technology Innovation Forum on Dec. 17, 2010.

Hu pointed out that in the solar photovoltaic industry, China accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s silicon production, yet Chinese people do not have the privilege to enjoy this kind of clean energy at all, because 95 percent of the production is for export.

In fact, the most unique characteristic of China’s solar photovoltaic industry is that production and resource consumption occur inside China, whereas product use and conservation of energy takes place outside of China, according to Meng Xiangan, secretary general of China Renewable Energy Society.

Hong Kong scholar and economics commentator, Larry Hsien Ping Lang said, “China protects the environment of other countries by exporting green products, but keeps all the pollution inside the country.”

Low labor cost in China, as well as disregard for the environment, and government subsidies to domestic enterprises make it often impossible for foreign companies to compete with Chinese manufacturing. California’s solar industry is an example according to Xia Ming, professor of political science at the City University of New York. Because of price subsidies paid by the Chinese regime and low labor costs, Solyndra, a California Solar company, announced bankruptcy on Aug. 31 Xia told the Epoch Times for a previous report.

Read the original Chinese article.

chinareports@epochtimes.com

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http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china-news/chinas-solar-technology-pollutes-local-ecology-61860.html

Website on marine reserve impact launched

 

Website on marine reserve impact launched

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Posted 19 September 2011, by Kimberlee Meier, Port Lincoln Times (Fairfax Media), portlincolntimes.com.au

 

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THE launch of a new website by the fishing industry aims to help address misconceptions about the health and sustainability of resources regarding the commonwealth’s marine reserve network planning process.

The National Seafood Industry Alliance (NSIA) has launched a website that identifies the impacts on the fishing industry of the proposed South-West marine bioregional planning process.

The South-West region includes the waters off Port Lincoln heading west all along the coast into Western Australian waters.

The website has information about the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries and the communities that rely on fishing and aquaculture, fisheries management and the marine environment.

Fishers believe the government’s plan for marine parks will exclude them from lucrative fishing grounds, and make them move to new grounds outside of the proposed reserves, putting pressure on new grounds.

Locals such as leather jacket fisherman Paul Claughton and rock lobster fisher Daryl Spencer are two of the people whose stories feature on the website, outlining the impacts the proposed marine parks would have on their livelihood.

Wildcatch Fisheries SA chair Jonas Woolford said lots of information could be found on the website, including the South-West’s industry submission about the proposed marine marks.

“This is our way of saying this is our proposal and these are the reasons why,” Mr Woolford said.

“We still achieve all of the conservation objectives that they’re (government) are after … and have the least disruption to our fishing activities.”

National Seafood Industry Alliance chair Katherine Sarneckis said the website provided facts “rather than fiction,” about fisheries and the proposed marine reserve network.

“As the Commonwealth marine bioregional planning process continues around Australia, it will be updated to include information on the industry approaches, social and resource impacts of proposals, and management of our fisheries and marine ecosystems in those areas,” Ms Sarneckis said.

The new NSIA website can be found at www.SeafoodforAustralia.com.au

 

 

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http://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/website-on-marine-reserve-impact-launched/2297911.aspx

Living with oil spill in Ogoniland


Living with oil spill in Ogoniland

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Posted 18 September 2011, by George Onah,Vanguard Media, vanguardngr.com

As the convoy of cars from Bodo town conveying journalists veered into the road leading to Goi community, the air became fetid. The  air was so offensive that two members of the entourage made to throw up. The air had been poisoned by the smell of crude oil that had enveloped the river serving the five communities of Goi.

The deeper the convoy rolled along the tarred road towards the river, the stronger the smell of the deadly spill. The stench, it was learnt, is worse at night when the ebbing river returns. As the vehicles brushed through the grasses that have grown into the road, few youths and elders stared at the group with gloomy faces. The road had obviously not been in full use because the spill had emptied the clan of its population.

None of the onlookers offered a smile. While mothers clutched their naked pale-looking babies, the old people and youths stood akimbo wearing long faces. The appearance of the rural folks reflected the extreme trauma the oil spill had programmed their lives. Minutes later, many deserted houses came into view. As we approaches the inner part of Goi, we beheld a community under siege by a demonic crude oil. Most of the buildings were in a state of disrepair.

The occupants have since fled  because of the massive spill. Goi, said to be the oldest in the area, and with a population of nearly 60,000, is tucked on a quiet hill in Gokana Local Government  Area of Rivers State.  The Goi River, which  has its source as Bonny River, flows through Opobo Channel and Bodo West, with tributaries scattered around the villages of the clan.

Damage
While examining the volume of destruction, it was observed that an area of the river, where spring water was gushing, had been covered by a  mass of oil. The thick oil stretched all around the edges of the water which overlooks the swamp in the far end of the river. It was the community’s source of drinking water. Clearly, aquatic life in the river had gone extinct. Paramount ruler of the clan, Mene Livinus Kobani, said the spring water used to accommodate crocodiles and boa, which the community embraced as its deities.

According to him, “Mudskippers and periwinkles, which sprinkled along the shores of the river and welcomed visitors to the water, are all gone. With what has happened here, no one can fish in the next 50 years”. Scores of carcases of fishing canoes and other seafaring materials littered the shores of the river. Even all the farmland, where the waterfront slopes in the clan, had been made infertile.

The exposed roots of coconut and palm trees whose leaves flutter as the ebbing water returns had started dying from the roots to the fronds. Spokesman of the land Alhaji Muhammad M. Kobani said four villages and scores of canoes in the clan were razed by a mystery fire when the spill spread round the area.

The fire and the spill have, according to him, rendered over 30,000 of the communities inhabitants homeless. “Those who refused to move out are daily inflicted by various ailments. Because the people do not have any choice of drinking water now, they scoop whatever they can find including water polluted with benzene. As at last count, we have lost 15 people in one month. What is happening here is a gradual extinction of our people by oil spill”.

When Sunday Vanguard visited Bodo General Hospital, the medical doctor in charge refused to comment on the effect of the spill on the people. He said he would need authorisation of the state government to speak. But some patients, including pregnant women, old people and youths said they started experiencing pain and nausea as soon as the spill was noticed in their river, three years ago (2008).

Many pregnant women were said to be miscarrying at an alarming rate. Mr. Barinua, a resident, said he had spent all his life savings catering for his sick family since the spill was noticed in the community. “We spend so much money on drinking water. If you have to spend so much on water alone, what about food, school fees, hospital bills and others? This oil spill has scattered the community and many families”.

Oil Spill

Another resident, Mrs. Barigboma Williams, said she had lost three pregnancies in a row due to the “bad water, smell of oil every day and the general hardship” occasioned by the spill. “We cannot even relocate because of the financial implications. I used to farm and trade while my husband fished to sustain the family. But we have lost our sources of livelihood because of the spill”.

Sources of Spill
Narrating the sources of their woes, Alhaji Kobani said the first spill in the area was in 2004 and was ignored by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, because they said it was sabotage. He said the spill of 2008, which has remained till date, was accepted by SPDC as system failure at Bomu Manifold – Trans Niger Pipeline. The spokesman explained that Goi  has “always been at the receiving end of system failure and pipeline sabotage as claimed by Shell”.

The paramount ruler of the place, Mene Livinus Kobani, said he was taken aback that the UNEP report on the oil spill in Ogoniland did not mention Goi. Kobani said he was also surprised that the community has also not been involved in the distribution of drinking water by the Rivers State government.

Demands
Mene Kobani said, “Presently, there is no government or Shell presence in the community” and, for life to return to the area, they require a  health centre. My people want to return to the river to fish as well as to the land to farm. So, Shell should clean up the area and carry out remediation. We want adequate compensation from Shell and we want the company to build schools here.  Rivers State government should help us by supplying drinking water to this community”.

The lack of drinking water, he said, has contributed to the people leaving the area in droves. “The five sources of drinking water have been badly polluted. You see, only those who experience things would know the extent of pain. We are undergoing severe hardship in this community and the entire clan as a result of the oil spill here”.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/living-with-oil-spill-in-ogoniland/

Mending Mother Earth’s Garment of Protection

 

Mending Mother Earth’s Garment of Protection

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Posted 16 September 2011, by Nafeesa M P, Daijiworld (Daijiworld Media Pvt Ltd), daijiworld.com

 

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We see every new cosmetic brand guaranteeing protection from the sun, is it not the same sun our elders were faced with each day while working hard in their fields? Is it not the same sun which keeps us warm and sources energy for all the processes on the earth? Answer for these questions is a harsh reality which tells us the tale of pollution we have inflicted. The consequences of so called industrial development have reached the skies damaging the ozone layer which protects us from sun radiations. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and other Ozone depleting substances containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine are the culprits.

Ozone is the layer of ozone gas that is set 15 to 30 kilometers above the earth and serves as a shield to protect the earth dwellers from the harmful Ultra Violet B (UVB) rays beamed out from the sun. Ozone is a highly reactive molecule containing three oxygen atoms, which is constantly being broken and formed above the atmosphere in a region called Stratosphere.

Scientist in the 1970’s discovered that the layer was thinning and as a result of the release of CFC’s, and consequently, the Ozone Hole developed. CFCs, which are used as industrial refrigerants and found in aerosol sprays have caused the breakdown of the ozone layer for last 50 years. The CFCs reaching the upper atmosphere are exposed to UV rays which causes them to break down into Chlorine substances. This chlorine reacts with oxygen which in turn depletes the ozone. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency one atom of chlorine destroys more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules.

The ozone above the Antarctic has been impacted due to pollution since mid-1980s, low temperature in the region speeds up the conversion of CFCs into Chlorine. During the southern summer when the sun shines for longer periods in the region the ozone break down occurs on a massive scale that is up to 65 percent. This is called ‘Ozone Hole’, whereas in other regions ozone is depleted up to 20 percent.

It is a bitter fact that more than 130,000 new cases of Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer are reported each year around the world. The disease can also be caused by excessive exposure to the Ultra Violet B (UVB) rays beamed towards the earth from the sun. The extra UVB radiation which is reaching the earth due to ozone depletion inhibits the reproductive cycle of many single celled organisms, which are the root of the food cycle. Researchers have also found variations in the reproductive cycles of fish and other under water species.

Since 1995 on September 16 each year the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is observed. The day is observed to focus on the protection of the ozone layer at global, national and local level. The day has been designated by the UN General Assembly to commemorate Montreal Protocol.

Nations around the world convened at Vienna in 1985 to develop a framework for co-operative activities to protect the Ozone layer and the agreement became known as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) monitors programmes of the international treaties aimed at eliminating the production and use of ozone-depleting substances.

The Montreal Protocol which was agreed upon on September 16, 1987 at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal stipulated that production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere are to be phased out by the year 2000. A Multilateral Fund (MLF) has been established as a financial instrument of the Montreal Protocol, which assists developing countries in the implementation of the protocol.

India acceded to the Montreal Protocol September 17, 1992 India’s per capita consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances is at present less than 3 grams and did not cross 20 gms as against 300 gms permitted under the Protocol.

As of now about 90 percent of the CFCs present in atmosphere were emitted by developed countries in the northern hemisphere including US and Europe. The amount of chlorine in the atmosphere dropped down following the ban of CFCs in these countries in the year 1996. But scientific estimates still predict that it will take another 50 years for the chlorine levels to reach natural level.

 

http://www.daijiworld.com/chan/exclusive_arch.asp?ex_id=1706

 

Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture


Kishanganga hydel power project threatens an ancient culture

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Posted 17 September 2011, by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka (Anant Media Pvt. Ltd.), tehelka.com

 

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The Dard Shin tribe of Gurez, speakers of the Shina language, are to be uprooted to Srinagar. But what is a pastoral hill community to do in the city, asks Iftikhar Gilani

Imagine the kind of uproar civil society and rights groups would have created had the Centre decided to shift the indigenous Jarawas from their native Andaman and Nicobar Islands to New Delhi. However, no such noise has been made so far even as the Dard-Shina tribe, said to be the last of the original Aryans living in the remote Gurez region is being robbed of its hearth and home. The tribal community will be relocated to Srinagar, making way for the 330-MW Kishanganga hydro-electric project in Kashmir. Away from the high-profile land acquisition cases of Bhatta Prasaul and Nandigram, this scenic place on the north-western tip of the Valley has hardly had anyone crying foul after the Centre announced relocation plans.

Since there is no land in this heavily militarised region close to Line of Control (LoC), the Government has decided to rehabilitate the tribals to Srinagar. Hyder Ali Samoon, a sub-inspector, a resident of Badwan village looks at his ancestral house with a sense of foreboding. The water from the dam will submerge what has been home to him and his ancestors. Pointing towards a nearby graveyard, where his ancestors lay buried, Samoon tells his sons and grandsons to engrave and store images of the house and the picturesque beauty of the village in their minds so that they can, at least, pass on their heritage to the future generations.

Nearly 300 families belonging to three villages of Badwan, Wanpora and Khopri are being relocated to Srinagar city. Against their peers across the Kanzalwan mountains in Bandipora, these villagers are getting a compensation of Rs 5.75 lakh per kanal (a unit of area). The farmers in Bandipora, on the other hand, with more fertile lands are being paid only Rs 2.25 lakh per kanal. Why this difference? Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Asghar Samoon, who incidentally was touring the area, told TEHELKA that Gurez tribes are being paid more because they are not only losing land but also their culture, civilisation, and will probably become extinct over the next few decades, thanks to the hustle and bustle of Srinagar.

The controversial Kishanganga project, which envisages diverting water from the Kishanganga river through tunnels to the Wullar Lake in Bandipora district of Kashmir Valley has not only come to focus due to Pakistan’s opposition invoking the clauses of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to complain against India to the World Bank but the project has drawn enough attention to itself for being ambiguous about its nature. What is intriguing is that the National Hydel Power Company (NHPC) officials have kept the voluminous environmental assessment report of Kishanganga undertaken by the Centre, for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment, close to its chest. Not only has it refused to share it with the state government, but it also did not accede to the request of former Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, when as a minister he wanted to see the report, before it went to the Cabinet.

Ed Note: Please visit the original site for a photo gallery associated with this article. Click on the image above to go to the original site.

The Rs 3642.04-crore power project will displace 362 families and consume a total of 4280 kanals (535 acres) of land. The Centre and the NHPC’s move to relocate the displaced families outside Gurez Valley were influenced by several factors. For instance, land in the mountainous valley is very limited. Some 27 revenue villages, inhabiting the region with a population of 31,900 (latest census) houses around 26,000 troops. Total land under Army occupation is 2802 kanal, out of which 918 kanals are unauthorised. Out of 1883 authorised occupation, the Army provides rent for 1140 kanals. The LoC fencing has consumed 339 kanals.

The local magistrate of Gurez Mohammad Ashraf Hakak said that the only land that was available on the foothills of mountains was prone to avalanches. Therefore, the Government, with the help of the NHPC, decided to shift the affected families to Mirgund, around 16 km from Srinagar.

At the core of this rehabilitation exercise stands the Dard Shin tribe of Gurez. Speakers of the Shina language, the rare tribals will be cut off from their culture, livelihood and roots if moved to Srinagar. Many historians and anthropologists claim that the Dard Shin people are pure Aryans.

For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state.

“Relocating people outside Gurez is an attempt to divide and rule the people of Gurez,” said the chairman of J&K Dard-Shin tribal minorities, Mir Hamidullah. Unhappy with the plan, he said that in order to preserve their culture and language, the people of Gurez should be provided land and rehabilitated in Gurez itself. “Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” said Mir.

The price of development:

Apart from jeopardising their cultural identity, the move to rehabilitate them will also risk the state of cultivable land in the area, which will be shrunk further by the dam. “This project will affect whatever little agricultural land is left in our village,” said Abdul Khaliq Ganie of Tarbal, the last village near LoC, about 20 kms from Gurez town. “We have been losing our cattle to the minefield areas every year, and now this project has added to our worries as this village remains cut off from the Kashmir Valley for most part of the year,” he added.

Known for its scenic beauty, Gurez is separated from the Valley by the north Kashmir mountain range that runs west of Zojila Pass. For more than six months Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the world. Until Jammu and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan, Gurez was part of the Gilgit state. The taxes would be paid at Drass, which happens to be the only area on this side of the LoC that shares its language, culture and customs with Gurez.

The compensation being offered to the people for their homes and land, the locals say, is too little. “They are giving me one lakh rupees for one kanal of land, but how am I going to survive on this little amount along with my nine children,” rued a resident of one of the affected villages in Gurez.

According to civilian officials, the NHPC has promised (under the new relief and rehabilitation plan) to pay Rs 5.57 lakh to the families whose houses will be affected by the project and construct a new house per household outside Gurez. The powerhouse will be located in Kralpora village of Bandipora. Waters from a fast flowing Kishanganga—from Teetwal to Gurez—would be stored at Gurez and diverted to the Bandipora power station. The water will then go into the Bonar Madhumati and eventually flow into the Wullar Lake.

“Shina language is the mother of Sanskrit. We are a people with our own history and relocating our people outside Gurez will hurt the community,” Slug: Kashmir

Pakistan has raised objections over the water diversion part of the project as it believes the inter-tributary transfer amounts to a violation of the IWT of 1960. Pakistan is worried that the diversion of the river will leave thousands of acres of its rice fields, fed by Neelum (that’s what Kishanganga is known as in Pakistan) dry, and impact Mangla Dam and the viability of its upcoming Neelam-Jhelum power project.

Environmental experts say that the rise in water level of Kishanganga will adversely affect the ecology of Gurez, submerging substantial plantation and leaving an impact on its agricultural land and wildlife. The dam will also affect the breeding cycle of trout fish, found in Kishanganga. “There will be no breeding of trout fish because of this dam as they need fast running water to breed,” said an official from the fisheries department. The dam will also lead to an extreme winter in Gurez, which already has a long winter, as the river will freeze because of the dam, some experts said. “There is a danger of floods too as the water level increases and this will affect other adjoining villages as well,” revealed a government official.

Work flows, unhindered:

However, despite many pitfalls, work on the power project continues on both sides of Gurez and Bandipora. The Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC) has been allotted the EPA contract by NHPC for implementing the project. An amount of Rs 269.96 crore has been spent until March 2010, sources said.

Conceived in 1996, the work on the project began in 2007. HCC is constructing a 37m-high rock-filled dam, and a 23.50 km headrace tunnel to take water to three turbines (110 MW each) for generating 1,350 million units of energy a year. The HCC, last winter, spent a crore on the helicopter service to reach the dam site in Gurez.

In addition to the various problems associated with the project, the HCC has been accused of discriminating against Kashmiri engineers and employees. The HCC authorities, locals alleged, are forcing families in the affected villages to vacate their houses and land even before providing them with compensation.

“The affected families are asking the HCC authorities to give compensation before they vacate their lands,” said a Kashmiri engineer working for the HCC site in Bandipora. “People of Kralpora, which is the most affected village, were recently beaten up by the HCC authorities for protesting and demanding land compensation,” he added. The HCC and NHPC officials, however, refused comment.

Local labourers alleged that they are paid less than the outsiders. “NHPC did not employ the people from the villages that will be submerged because of the dam. They should have been given preference, but the project authorities brought employees from outside the valley,” a government official said.

Minefield of historical wealth:

The region with its unique history is littered with gems of archaeological interest. Archaeologists believe that there are many sites in Gurez, which have inscriptions in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, Hebrew and Tibetan. Experts are of the opinion that an archaeological investigation of Gurez valley will give further insight into the history of the Dard Shin people and about Kashmir in general.

Incidentally, Gurez valley falls along the section of the ancient Silk Route, which connected Kashmir valley with Gilgit and Kashgar. Archaeological surveys in valleys north of Gurez along the Silk Route, particularly in Chilas, have uncovered hundreds of inscriptions recorded in stone. The Kishanganga project will also affect this route, which has traditionally been crucial for trade in Central Asia. One of the three villages that will also be affected by the project is Kanzalwan, which is believed to be an archaeological site of historic importance. The last council of Buddhism is said to have been held in this village, and further down the stream, the ruins of ancient Sharada University lie preserved along the Neelum.

The toll the project is going to take on the local population is heavy. It will mostly hit people who are entirely dependent on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihood. “Those families whose livelihood is entirely dependent on agriculture will be affected more as they have to look for other avenues of employment after their land compensation is exhausted,” said a government official in Gurez.

Iftikhar Gilani is Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
iftikhar@tehelka.com 

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http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws170911Kishanganga.asp

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce Incites Vigilantes to Destroy Public Lands

 

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce Incites Vigilantes to Destroy Public Lands

Otero County Plans Renegade Logging; Catron County Bulldozes San Francisco River

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Posted 13 September 2011, by Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, biologicaldiversity.org

 

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For Immediate Release, September 13, 2011

Contact: Cyndi Tuell, (520) 444-6603 or ctuell@biologicaldiversity.org

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Incidents of vigilantes tearing up public lands — including the unauthorized bulldozing of 13 miles of the San Francisco River by Catron County — are on the rise in New Mexico following calls from U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) for counties to seize control of federal public land.

Field visits by Center for Biological Diversity staff and a letter to Catron County from the Forest Service confirm that Catron County officials in August trespassed across private land to bulldoze 13.5 miles of the San Francisco River on the Gila National Forest. The river is designated critical habitat for the endangered loach minnow; the bulldozed section includes an inventoried roadless area downstream of Reserve.

In a press release dated Aug. 3, 2011, seven days before the bulldozing incident, Pearce highlighted the fact that sheriffs in counties that patrol the Gila will not enforce roadless rules or the Forest Service’s “travel management plan,” which manages off-road vehicle use. The only federal response from the Obama administration has been a multiagency tour of the area and a letter from the Forest Service to the county.

“Public and elected officials should not be encouraging or engaging in vigilantism on private and federal public lands,” said Cyndi Tuell at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This radical anti-environmental agenda is as dangerous and misinformed as it is out of touch with Americans’ public-lands values.”

At an August town hall in Eager, Ariz., Congressman Pearce urged counties to take control of all the land within their boundaries, including federal public land. Pearce, who was called a “Tea Party rock star” by the White Mountain Independent newspaper reporting on the event, praised New Mexico and Oregon counties for “taking control,” including the Otero County sheriff who threatened to arrest any Forest Service staff interfering with the county’s logging on national forest land. Pearce’s own legislation, H.R. 1202, would exempt national forest logging from all environmental laws.

On Sept. 17 Pearce and Otero County officials plan to begin logging on the Lincoln National Forest under a plan approved by Otero County that forgoes U.S. Forest Service policies and approvals on national forest land. Congressman Pearce has applauded the plan and has vowed to fell the first tree.

“Violation of private property rights by local government and destruction of public lands that belong to all Americans are behaviors that should be condemned by public officials, not encouraged,” said Tuell.

 

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http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/pearce-09-13-2011.html