Arquivo da tag: Conflito ambiental

Colombian tribe scores ‘historic’ victory versus Big Gas (The Guardian)

State company Ecopetrol pulls out of drilling site in territories belonging to the indigenous U’wa people

U'was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol.

U’was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol. Photograph: Asou’wa/Asou’wa

The indigenous U’wa people living in north-east Colombia have won what observers call an “historic” and “decisive” victory after state oil and gas company Ecopetrol dismantled a gas drilling site in their territories.

The U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Councils (Asou’wa) reported in February last year the arrival of an “avalanche of heavy machinery” and increasing numbers of soldiers at the site, called Magallanes, where Ecopetrol intended to drill three wells. After statements fiercely opposing operations and a series of meetings with government and company representatives, Ecopetrol agreed to suspend operations last May and announced a decision in July to withdraw equipment – but only finished doing so in January this year.

“It’s a triumph,” Asou’wa vice-president Heber Tegria Uncaria told the Guardian. “It’s one more battle we’ve won over the last 20 to 30 years, and it’s thanks to the U’wa people themselves, national and international support, and the role of the media in drawing people’s attention to what is happening.”

“We feel extremely happy about the Magallanes victory and it gives us strength to continue fighting for our lives, for our rights and for Mother Earth,” says U’wa lawyer Aura Tegria Cristancho. “Ecopetrol’s decision was a very intelligent one. It knows the U’was and knew we wouldn’t stop fighting.”

Asou’wa issued a statement calling Ecopetrol’s withdrawal an “act of respect” for U’wa rights and an “important achievement” in the defence of their territories, and acknowledging the importance of support from organisations and individuals working on human rights and environmental issues, particularly the US-based NGO Amazon Watch.

Andrew Miller, Amazon Watch’s advocacy director, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as a “decisive victory” and says it is “very significant” that “one of Latin America’s largest corporations” would dismantle a gas drilling site following pressure.

“I can’t say this is unprecedented, but we’ve never seen a similar circumstance in the last 20 years,” he says. “Once actual construction starts, it is extremely difficult to force corporations, especially one with the full backing of the state, to reverse course.”

Carlos Andres Baquero, a lawyer from Bogota-based Dejusticia, told the Guardian Ecopetrol’s decision was “historic.”

“It’s been several decades since the U’wa started their fight to protect their territory and although it has not been easy, the withdrawal from Magallanes is a testament to their strength and capacity to mobilise,” he says.

The United Nations’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, calls it an “important victory” for indigenous peoples in Colombia.

“Such victories are far too rare,” she told the Guardian. “Too often projects see indigenous peoples driven from their lands. I hope other corporations can draw lessons from these conflicts and obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples before making use of their territories.”

Camila Mariño, a Colombian lawyer with Earthrights International, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as “in line” with the agreements made with the U’was last May, as well as recent commitments by the government – made during peace talks with Farc guerrillas in Cuba – to take human rights and indigenous communities fully into account.

Asked by the Guardian if it had pulled out of Magallanes because of U’wa opposition, Ecopetrol emailed a statement saying it had agreed to meet with them in June last year but they had failed to show up.

“Since this led to delays, Ecopetrol decided to remove the drilling equipment and facilities from the area, as has effectively happened,” the company states.

However, as Tegria Uncaria points out, Ecopetrol retains its environmental license to operate at Magallanes, and the company itself has called the suspension “temporary.” In correspondence last August Ecopetrol emphasised that suspension “didn’t imply a definite termination of the project”, and told the Guardian it “would like to continue exploring in the area, but respecting the U’wa nation and all the agreements made with them.”

The U’was have now taken legal action to have the environmental license annulled.

“We won the political battle, but the license remains in force,” says Tegria Uncaria.

The Magallanes site is roughly 270ms beyond the northern boundary of a 220,000 hectare reserve established for the U’was in 1999, but remains within their ancestral territories.

Asou’wa warns that, Magallanes aside, the U’was continue to face other serious threats. These include mining concessions in their reserve, the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline which has been attacked 100s of times, and armed conflict between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army.

The pipeline, owned by Cenit, an Ecopetrol subsidiary, mainly transports oil from the Cano Limon oil fields in which, says Ecopetrol, it has a 55% stake and US oil firm Occidental has 45%. According to Adam Isacson, from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), some of the US’s multi-billion dollar “Plan Colombia” “aid” package – ostensibly about combating the drugs trade – has been spent on Colombian army brigades in this region in order to protect the pipeline, with the “bulk of it” going to “Black Hawk helicopters, pilot training, maintenance training, communications equipment and fuel sustenance.” According to a 2011 WOLA report co-authored by Isacson, “Plan Colombia” aid was delivered during a period of “severe human rights abuses” by security forces and paramilitary and army violence spiralling “tragically upwards”, while US officials, he says, “downplayed human rights groups’ constant warnings about military-paramilitary collaboration” and the “false positives” scandal in which Colombian soldiers dressed victims like guerrillas and claimed them killed during fighting.

“The military presence is far greater than it used to be, especially in that part of the pipeline [Arauca to Santander, through U’wa territories],” Isacson says. “Who really benefits? The oil companies getting free security would be the main ones, and all their investors. This is not designed to protect citizens.”

The U’was have repeatedly denounced the militarisation of their territories, and are now requesting that the pipeline is either buried or re-routed.

“Given the constant blowing-up of the pipeline and the environmental and human rights dangers this causes, we have requested that studies are done on the possibility of burying it underground between the points where it crosses our reserve, or finding another route outside the reserve,” says Tegria Uncaria. “To date, it hasn’t been buried, but according to Ecopetrol they’re doing technical studies.”

Ecopetrol told the Guardian that it was doing such studies and says “it is hoped they will be finished by the first half of 2015.”

In the 1990s the U’was issued a series of threats to commit mass suicide if operations went ahead at another drilling site in their territories, called Gibraltar, just to the east of Magallanes.

Map of most influential environmental justice conflicts in the US is released this week (EJOLT Project)

UScases [BRUSSELS, 25 June 2014] The 40 most influential environmental justice conflicts in recent American history are now included in a Global Atlas of Environmental Justice. The U.S. cases were compiled by the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. The interactive atlas is a product of the EJOLT project (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), which brings together dozens of universities and environmental justice organizations from four continents.

In the United States, decades of research have documented a strong correlation between the location of environmental burdens and the racial/ethnic background of the most impacted residents. In an effort to choose landmark cases in the U.S. the team from University of Michigan elicited feedback from more than 200 environmental justice leaders, activists, and scholars in identifying these case studies. “We felt that we could not identify influential cases without incorporating the voices of the activists and leaders who have worked within the field for more than three decades” says Alejandro Colsa-Perez, a Fulbright scholar from Spain and one of the four students from the team that recently graduated from the University of Michigan while doing the research on the top forty environmental justice cases.

Fossil fuels and climate justice conflicts; industrial conflicts and waste management conflicts dominate the list of most influential environmental justice conflicts, with seven cases each. The list includes historical cases within the environmental justice movement, such as 1978 Love Canal, New York, and the 1982 Warren County, North Carolina, protests. With the inclusion of tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, it is becoming clear that climate change threats are also disproportionately impacting the same communities that have suffered historically from environmental racism. The forty cases identified by participants in the survey represent a wide range of time periods, geographic regions, communities, and environmental challenges.

Although some of the cases have a clear ending point, many of these conflicts are ongoing and unresolved. An element of hope arises when looking at the percentage of conflicts where EJOLT collaborators believe environmental justice has been served, based on the way the conflict was resolved or on the improvements that impacted communities have achieved in their fight against injustices (e.g. the existence of compensation to communities, court cases in favor of environmental justice communities, rehabilitation/restoration of the area, or strengthening of participation in decision-making). As judged by the EJOLT team, in the U.S. approximately 35% have experienced some form of environmental justice success, compared to an average of 17% worldwide. “The long history of environmental justice activism in the United States can provide an important guide for activists and researchers across the Globe to learn about strategies that vulnerable communities have used in the past to help improve conditions within their communities”, says Professor Paul Mohai from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan.

The Global Atlas already has over 1100 stories about communities struggling for environmental justice. It serves as a virtual space for those working on environmental justice issues to get information, find other groups working on related issues, and increase the visibility of environmental conflicts. According to Atlas coordinator Leah Temper from the Autonomous University of Barcelona “only once communities stand up and say we will no longer be polluted, will governments and companies change their behaviour”.

Brasil é o terceiro país do mundo com mais conflitos ecológicos (O Globo)

JC e-mail 4929, de 08 de abril de 2014

Segundo levantamento global, busca por recursos naturais prejudica comunidades tradicionais. Posição do país no ranking seria explicada pela abundância de projetos de infraestrutura relacionados ao meio ambiente

A exploração mineral, o desmatamento e a disputa por terras e água estão entre os maiores motivos de conflitos ambientais do mundo, segundo um levantamento internacional divulgado recentemente pela ONG Ejolt (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade) e coordenado pela Universidade Autônoma de Barcelona (UAB). Os pesquisadores identificaram 945 casos em 78 países. Empatado com a Nigéria, o Brasil foi o terceiro colocado no ranking, com 58 casos, atrás apenas da Índia (112) e da Colômbia (77).

Os conflitos do país, segundo o Atlas Global de Justiça Ambiental, estão ligados à abundância de projetos de infraestrutura relacionados ao meio ambiente. São obras, como a construção de hidrelétricas, que dividem ativistas e empreiteiras; e o setor agrícola, cujas plantações invadem unidades de conservação.

– O crescimento da população mundial provocará uma busca cada vez mais intensa por commodities, e o Brasil, que é rico em terra, água, petróleo e minérios, será um alvo – descreve Leah Temper, coordenadora do Atlas. – E este recursos estão em terras ocupadas por indígenas, quilombolas e pequenos agricultores. Estes grupos serão os mais afetados.

Entre os conflitos ecológicos brasileiros estão episódios de grilagem para especulação imobiliária e a disputa por regiões que poderiam receber projetos como barragens hidrelétricas. São instalações que ampliam a geração de energia por uma matriz energética considerada limpa, mas que provocam alto impacto ambiental no local de sua construção.

Falhas na legislação
Apesar do processo de industrialização nacional ter catapultado nas décadas passadas, as exportações do Brasil são altamente dependentes de produtos do setor primário. Em 2012, metade dos produtos comercializados para outras nações vinham do agronegócio – carne, soja, etanol, por exemplo – e outros semiacabados, entre eles alumínio e aço bruto. O potencial econômico do campo leva extrativistas a se aventurarem em reservas indígenas.

Professor de Direito Ambiental da Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Rômulo Sampaio lembra que a exploração de commodities sempre gera disputa de interesses.

– O petróleo, por exemplo, provoca interesses nacionais, conservacionais e do mercado privado – destaca. – No campo, o problema fundiário torna o conflito ainda mais agudo, devido à desigualdade na distribuição de propriedades.

Sampaio atribui os dilemas ambientais e suas consequências sociais a falhas graves na legislação.

– Não há uma discussão sobre como lidar com os conflitos – condena. – Falta uma orientação, uma política pública. O debate só aparece na hora de implementação de cada projeto. Por isso, aumenta o número de ações no Judiciário.

A Fiocruz realiza, desde o ano passado, um catálogo sobre injustiças ambientais no Brasil. O órgão foi uma das fontes do mapeamento da UAB e, em trabalhos independentes, destaca os danos à saúde coletiva provocados pelos conflitos ecológicos. Nas grandes cidades, moradores no entorno de lixões estão sujeitos a doenças respiratórias, dengue e leptospirose.

Já a atuação da indústria em áreas próximas a rios leva à alteração do ciclo reprodutivo da fauna, a doenças cardíacas e à insegurança alimentar.

– Analisamos denúncias de problemas de saúde causados por conflitos ecológicos, como a contaminação de rios por agrotóxicos – revela Marcelo Firpo Porto, professor do Centro de Estudos da Saúde do Trabalhador e Ecologia Humana, da Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública. – As doenças estão ligadas à degradação dos ecossistemas.

Em seu novo mapeamento, a Fiocruz já identificou 450 casos de conflito ecológico no Brasil.

– Levamos ao mapeamento da UAB os casos mais emblemáticos, relacionados ao comércio internacional – conta. – Mas conhecemos muitas outras ocorrências, de âmbito regional ou nacional.

No Rio, por exemplo, a Zona Oeste registra dois casos que seriam atentados à justiça ambiental. O polo industrial de Santa Cruz já provocou emissões de uma poeira de ferro e carbono, que causa danos ao aparelho respiratório.

Na Barra da Tijuca, moradores de comunidades vizinhas à Vila do Autódromo são ameaçadas de remoção devido à especulação imobiliária. A região receberá instalações para os Jogos Olímpicos. Segundo a Fiocruz, alterações já realizadas pelo assoreamento de recursos hídricos no local pioram a qualidade de vida da população.

Para Sampaio, as comunidades urbanas e rurais têm em comum a falta de mobilização, que permite a sobrevivência de problemas seculares.

– Não existe uma organização social entre as comunidades menos favorecidas, o que prejudica sua representatividade – assinala.

Leah, que está à frente da organização do Atlas, reconhece que o mapeamento ainda tem um longo caminho para percorrer. Nesta primeira edição, o trabalho contou com a adesão de 23 universidades e ONGs de justiça ambiental de 18 países.

‘Dívida ambiental’
O levantamento não chegou a regiões expressivas do planeta, como a China, a Ásia Central e o Oriente Médio.

– Temos muitos lugares em branco no mapa – reconhece. – Mas, agora que ele é público, vamos convidar pesquisadores e ativistas dessas regiões para documentar outros conflitos e expandir o nosso conhecimento.

A coordenadora do Atlas, no entanto, assegura que a iniciativa já confirma um padrão histórico.

– O Hemisfério Sul continua suprindo as nações desenvolvidas com manufaturas de baixo preço e pagam um alto preço ecológico. As nações ricas têm uma “dívida ambiental” – analisa.

(Renato Grandelle/O Globo)