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LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS
The struggle of the Tupinikim and Gaurani indigenous peoples is now facing an extremely difficult situation. In February 2005, following their decision to take back their lands occupied by the eucalyptus plantations of the Aracruz Celulosa pulp company, over 100 indigenous families returned to settle in the rural areas from where they had been evicted, thus opening up the door to hopes of a sustainable and decent future (see WRM bulletins 94, 96 and 101).
However, today those hopes are being dashed. A communiqué sent by the Alert against the Green Desert Network (Red Alerta Contra el Desierto Verde) appears here below:
"Just like in the seventies, this morning (20/01/2006), in a violent and unilateral act, the Aracruz Celulose tractors destroyed two Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous villages in Espíritu Santo.”
With the support of the Tactic Operations Commando (COT) of President Lula’s Federal Government, brought in directly from the capital, Brasilia and aided by the State Police special task force from Paulo Hartung, Aracruz Celulose mowed down all they found in their way in indigenous villages of Córrego D’Ouro and Olho D’Água. The two villages were totally destroyed!
This was an authoritarian and unilateral act. Neither the Cacique Commission, nor regional FUNAL administration, nor the Public Ministry, nor the parliamentarians were aware of Aracruz Celulose’s police scheme. What puzzles everyone is that a lengthy negotiation was in process, involving all the actors in the conflict: the State, the company, the Indians, civil society. This negotiation had been on the agenda since the end of the previous year regarding a new resolution by the Ministry of Justice, confirming the anthropological studies carried out by FUNAL, recognizing the area as indigenous territory.
Demolishing all the on-going dialogue in the sphere of the State and civil society, the absurd provision of returning possession was issued by the Federal Judge, Rogério Moreira Alves, of the Jurisdiction of Linhares, dated 07/12/05.
In a war-like operation, shooting from land and from helicopters, dropping moral-effect bombs the Aracruz Celulose machines devastated their plots and food crops, and demolished their ritual cabins. The caciques and indigenous leaders who managed to reach the area and offered resistance were attacked by the police, some of the injured ended up in the Aracruz hospital (Seu João Mateus from the village of Comboios and Valdeir, from Pau Brasil, among others).
Some indigenous leaders are still being held in solitary confinement by the Federal Police (Paulo, a leader from Caieiras Velha and Nil, from Pau Brasil). The parliamentary advisor, Vanessa Vilarinho, who was present in the area that morning, lost her car that was destroyed by the police.
There are barriers preventing access to the area. Already in the morning two FUNAI officials were held and placed in solitary confinement in Aracruz Celulose’s “guest house.”
So far, this is all the information we have. The climate is very tense and a team of members of the Green Desert Network has travelled to the villages, although they have not made any contact to date. We are awaiting more information.
Olho d’água and Córrego do Ouro will arise again, always!
Those wishing to express their
support to the Tupinikim and Guaraní indigenous peoples
in their struggle against the eucalyptus plantations and in favour
of the restoration of their lands may write to FASE-ES, e-mail:
At the end of December 2005, Ibama – Instituto Brasilero del Medio Ambiente y de los Recursos Naturales Renovables (the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) - brought a lawsuit against the Veracel Celulose company. Using satellite imagery and geo-processing, it verified the pulp mill’s irregularities and fined it R$ 320.000 for preventing or hindering the natural regeneration of the Mata Atlântica forest over an area of 1,200 hectares and worsening the situation of this biome. This event has again exposed Veracel’s fraud and its discourse as protector of the Mata Atlântica.
For many years, NGOs from
the Extreme South of Bahia have been denouncing and demanding
that federal and state bodies responsible for the Environment
- IBAMA and CRA - fulfil their commitments and investigate the
various environmental irregularities committed by the Veracel
Celulose company, an associate of the Brazilian company Aracruz
and the Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso company with the plantation
of eucalyptus trees.
At its site on the Internet, the company advertises that some of the commitments of the enterprise are “respect for the environment, generation of employment and income, promotion of improvements in the population’s quality of life and profitability to its shareholders, following principles of sustainability.”
According to Ibama, the Mata Atlântica has 383 endangered species of fauna and of these, 125 run the risk of disappearing. In the Extreme South the situation is very serious because monoculture eucalyptus plantations are using vast tracts of flat land, leaving just a few islands of craggy areas as wildlife “refuges.” Many species do not live in or are not adapted to uneven areas and are therefore becoming locally extinct, particularly the endemic and rare species. To make matters worse, there is no connectivity between the islands of native vegetation, set in a sea of eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus plantations do not represent an ecological corridor, because as we environmentalists, scientists, business people and government technicians, etc. know, the species do not cross or use eucalyptus plantations.
In the name of “development” of the region, the remaining biological heritage of the Mata Atlantica is being destroyed, causing indignation and protests from the organized civil society. The lack of consideration and greed of the promoters of this “development” model, government and entrepreneurs, foster crimes that attack nature and society, robbing future generations of the right to biodiversity, to scenic beauty and to a quality of life, in favour of a few groups and people getting wealthier. Periodically we have seen the Finnish Ambassador on Brazilian television stating that Finland is the country with the best quality of life in the world. However, groups from this country promote destruction and misery in the countries of the South through projects lacking transparency and respect that are imposed on the population.
Another issue of concern is related with the companies’ compliance with all the conditions. These conditions are prepared by the bodies granting permits for eucalyptus plantations and the construction of the pulp mills, after taking into account the various impacts caused by the enterprise. However, later the entities do not control these conditions as they should because, as they themselves admit, they do not have the technical capacity to ensure follow-up. In the knowledge of these government shortcomings, the companies take advantage of the situation and commit abuses.
The investigation carried out in the communities surrounding the Veracel factory, at the time it was built, enabled CEPEDES to discover that the company did not use the inhabitants of these communities’ labour at any time. The company, using financed money, including inputs from BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social) built housing in the neighbouring cities and districts, such as Itagimirim, Itapebi and Barrolandia and brought in workers from other regions of the country. Once the factory was built many returned to their region of origin and others stayed behind. This ends up by causing more unemployment, misery and violence.
This episode shows how the company’s environmental discourse is very different from its practice. We may affirm, on the basis of our experience over these almost fourteen years that the only true consideration on the part of the company is that which has to do with profitability for its shareholders as we have been able to verify through various declarations that their profits are increasing. The vice-president of Stora Enso, Magnus Diesen is already considering duplication of the model as a fait accompli and has declared that “a major step forward for the company would be a probable Veracel II. The additional capacity of the unit could somewhat exceed our present production, thanks to technological development. We would thus reach a little over double the volume we produce today.” This is a matter for concern as the Extreme South of Bahia can no longer support the vast monoculture eucalyptus plantations and that already existing problems are incalculable.
By Ivonete Gonçalves, CEPEDES – Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas para o Desenvolvimento do Extremo Sul/Bahia, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps no other Bill in Colombia on environmental matters has given rise to such diverse opinions and to such commotion as the discussion in the Colombian Congress of the General Forestry Law adopted by this institution last December. The strength of the arguments and the response of Colombian environmentalism, social movements and even part of the mass media have been such that for the first time President Alvaro Uribe Velez returned a Bill to the Congress of the Republic.
The Bill was promoted under reasoning such as “how essential” are “conservation and sustainable management of natural forests in addition to the establishment of tree plantations,” for the development of the country, as the latter are a basic guide for the progress of the forest sector”. Furthermore, it was insisted that out of a potential 25 million hectares, some scant 150,000 have been afforested for commercial use, that is to say 0.006 per cent. The government has underscored that for this reason the Bill is of vital importance because the country’s vast forestry potential has not been harnessed. Perhaps these examples are sufficient to warn us, even in a minor way, on the forum where these arguments have been established. These phrases show that the defenders of the Bill are more concerned over trade aspects than over environmental conservation and protection.
Right from the start the arguments advanced by those defending the Forestry Bill have corresponded to commercial interests. They allege that the country’s forestry potential could be put to better use, thus improving monetary dividends and increasing employment. However, even in this context we can question whether the economic benefits that they are supposedly discussing are for the country, or on the contrary, whether there is a concealed interest in opening up the forests of Colombia for exploitation by multi-national companies. We already know who will benefit from the business with a bill intending to foster concessions with national and multi-national companies having the technical and extractive capacity to ensure modern and technically powered exploitation.
Furthermore, at this stage
the question arises of whether the discussion regarding forestry
matters can be subordinated to merely commercial reflections.
That is to say, whether the context in which the debate on the
Forestry Bill is set, can only be considered from a capital criterion.
It would seem that this discussion should take place in a broader
forum, where not only economic interests should be considered
but ethical and existential ones too. This is an evident consequence
when life has been understood as something sacred. However, during
the process of the Bill’s debate in Congress, those defending
it, among them the Government and in particular the Ministry of
Environment, Housing and Land Development and the Ministry of
Agriculture, rejected the opportunity to open up the debate and
were content to systematically discredit their opponents.
The fact is that there are many events that make this Bill illegitimate. In the first place the Afro-descendent, indigenous and peasant communities (who are the owners of over half the forests of the country) total lack of knowledge of this Bill. In spite of the constitutional right of Consultation that Afro-descendent and Indigenous Communities have, only a few fora were held, and the recommendations made were not considered. The Ministries of Agriculture and Environment alleged that, as these communities would not be affected negatively, it was not imperative to consult them.
The illegitimacy of the Bill can also be explained because the academic community, environmental organizations and sectors of civil society that work towards the protection of the environment were not allowed to take part either. Furthermore, the Congress of the Republic ignored the protests made by the Public Prosecutor and the Public Inspector.
In this way, step by step, the majority of the Congress ignored the voices of the people, the only voices capable of legitimizing any regulation. The Government has gone so far with this strategy that during the voting of the Bill in December 2005, the congress-people who opposed this Bill and who complained with a forceful voice time and time again, were never given the floor. Furthermore, a solicitude previously done requesting to vote article by article was given no attention. In this way Bill 264 was adopted, with 81 votes in favour, 11 against, channelling it to Presidential sectioning, where it has been annulled.
This brief report of the process, not only gives rise to serious doubts about the bill, but also about the strategies used to adopt it, leaving us with a bad feeling. In their attempt to discredit the opposition, they have completely ignored the others, showing their incapacity to create a broad forum for discussion, where not only economic and commercial criteria are considered, but also ethical and existential ones. It has been lamentable to see how this bill has been adopted. Some people who voted in favour admitted that they did not know what they were adopting nor were they able to define the meaning of the new concept “vuelo forestal” (which separates rights to land from rights to the forest cover), which is the hub of the project. This is evidently a “Surrealistic Mythology” concept as long as it separates the soil from the trees and other land elements; a separation of two elements as inseparable as the tree trunk and the soil that is its foundation, is only possible to understand in a dream. Perhaps here again we are only facing capitalist schizophrenia.
The traditional January summer siesta in Uruguay has been interrupted, not only by constant rainfall but also because there has been no respite in the advance of the pulp mills. They continue with their advertising campaign, based on falsehoods, which are then repeated as truths. Promises and mirages made to a population with a high rate of unemployment, desperately in need of solutions.
In fact, this is nothing new. Trans-national companies are taking over the world (understood as globalization), using the creed that no development is possible without foreign investment. However, the countries of the South receiving foreign investment remain as poor as before or become even poorer: these countries are the scenarios where exclusion, exploitation and extermination grow. Or is wealth measured by the number of cell-phones?
Uruguay has become the focus of the forestry-pulp mill business. Its grasslands have turned into monoculture tree plantations and their effects have already made themselves felt: they concentrate land in foreign hands, deplete water sources, open up the way to pests, contribute to rural migration and provide fewer jobs than the other rural activities they have displaced. And now that the trees are ready to harvest, the intention is to install a mega pulp mill industry to use this attractive raw material. The Finnish company Botnia and the Spanish company Ence have already obtained building permits. Botnia has started works in the midst of major regional opposition reaching bi-national dimensions. Stora Enso has just landed in Uruguay with the purchase of 50,000 hectares for plantation and intends to acquire 100,000 hectares more by 2007 with the objective of feeding a gigantic pulp mill in the centre of the country (see articles on the issue on WRM’s web page, under section by country: “Uruguay”)
This implies destruction, ranging from the Uruguayan landscape itself to its odours, starting by the quality of life of its people and ending by its productive and sovereign future. They will be unable to accomplish this if the facts are known, so a different scenario has to be shown and the truth has to be hidden.
* Botnia and Ence have announced that they will use the “best” available technology at world level – a technology using chlorine dioxide or the ECF system.
FALSE: A few modern pulp mills are currently considered leaders from an environmental point of view. These include the Mönsterås and Östrand mills in Sweden, and the Stendal mill in Germany. They all are able to produce 100% high quality Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) bleached pulp, involving the opportunity to implement a Closed Circle (CC) option, which reduces fresh water usage and offers opportunities to nearly eliminate bleach plant wastewater discharge. (1)
* They say that the factory will have no negative impacts on the environment, or on the water, or the air, or the land. “Here we will not be generating any cancer-giving substance. Nor will we be generating dioxins and furans, persistent organic substances that are generated undesirably.” “Not one gram of dioxin will be generated here.”
FALSE: “The bleaching
stage is perhaps the most problematic one in environmental terms
in a kraft pulp bleaching factory. Large quantities of chemical
substances are produced and used and it is usually the only part
of the factory that generates a permanent flow of effluents.”
“In relation to the ECF technology, it should be noted that
all bleaching chemicals are potent oxidisers, and as a result they
present hazards to workers and nearby residents.” “(…)
Both chronic and acute toxic effects can result from ClO2 exposure
including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, wheezing
and breathing difficulties (possibly delayed), pulmonary edema,
possible chronic bronchitis and asthma. This, along with the chloroform
and similar by-products from ECF
* They say that if you visit the 300 mills in Europe, these factories live in harmony with cities and have no problems in doing so. The rivers still have fish and the people still swim in them.
FALSE: In the summer of 2003, some 7,500 cubic metres of black liquor leaked out of the UPM pulp mill in Lappeenranta, Finland and seriously contaminated an important area of Lake Saimaa. According to the local press, “the biological treatment plant was unable to deal with this sudden discharge and in a matter of days the black liquor spread out into the waters of the lake.” The press continued by saying “the black liquor consumes the oxygen from the water, causing a high rate of fish mortality and also darkens the waters and contaminates the shores. Furthermore, it has an extremely disagreeable smell. Half the fish stocks were eradicated over a radius of three kilometres from the mill.” The accident caused great anger as it happened just when the summer holidays were starting (in Finland summer is very short) and the people were getting ready to enjoy the lake. To make matters worse, the company did not inform anybody about the problem. “It was just like old times. The water was heavy, white and full of froth. The smell was terrible. It spoilt the holidays as the problem lasted a whole month.” (2)
* they say that the smell given out by the pulp mills is not disagreeable, it is a smell that changes, but it is not strong.
FALSE: at the beginning of the nineties, the Finnish South Karelia Institute on Allergy and the Environment carried out a series of studies on the impacts of malodorous sulphurous compounds on human health. These compounds are basically hydrogen sulphide (H2S), methyl mercaptan (CH3SH) and methyl sulphurs [(CH3)2S and (CH3)2S2]. These are released by pulp mills using a process with sulphate (the same one that is to be used in Uruguay). From the various studies carried out it is clear that these odours are not only simply noxious and unpleasant, but they also have impacts on health, in particular increasing the risk of acute respiratory infections, problems with the eyes, headaches and neuropsychological problems among others. Furthermore, the studies have observed that these compounds enter the local inhabitants dwelling and therefore people are exposed to them in their own homes. When asked about their experience regarding diseases associated with pulp mills, people immediately talk of asthma, allergies and skin problems (2)
The plans to install two gigantic pulp mills on the Uruguayan side of the Uruguay River are facing increasing mobilization by Argentine neighbours from the Province of Entre Rios, who see their economic activities based on riparian tourism threatened.
In Uruguay, various organizations and people too are opposed to an undertaking that will not only be hazardous as regards contamination, but will involve condemning the country to the condition of supplier of a contaminating raw material, that will take over our land through forestation, jeopardising our water, flora and fauna and that does not provide genuine jobs. What will be the situation 40 years from now when the pulp mills come to the end of their useful life, leaving enormous cement corpses and the plantations leave our rural areas devastated?
There are many people who do not believe in the falsehoods advertised by the companies, and others who are beginning to doubt them. The warning must come now because when the pulp mills are installed, it will be too late.
By Raquel Nuñez, World Rainforest Movement, e-mail: email@example.com
1. Data from the Report on Observations
and Recommendations by the WWW International Assessment Mission
regarding the Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary and Ramsar Site
and Valdivia CELCO pulp mill controversy, Valdivia, Chile, November
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