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LOCAL STRUGGLES AND NEWS
The world is becoming aware of the situation of the Indigenous Peoples living in isolation in the Amazon. It seems incredible, but some animals are better protected than the human groups seeking to preserve their isolation. There is no doubt that this is a basic human right that the peoples in isolation have the faculty to exercise and defend and we to respect. However, and in spite of the recommendations made by the UN, the OAS, the COICA, the IUCN and other global and regional institutions, the situation of these peoples inhabiting the continental Amazon –the greatest world reserve of uncontacted peoples– is alarming. All these peoples, without exception, are in danger of forced disappearance. Urgent action must be encouraged to avoid further genocide. The Indigenous Peoples in isolation still existing in the Amazon are a unique human and cultural heritage that should not follow the same path as that of hundreds of forest peoples: slow extermination, violent and silent disappearance, a shameful and sinister genocide.
In spite of the fact that the country has an indigenous majority, the situation in Bolivia is no different from what we have just described. There is little awareness of the dramatic situation, efforts are isolated and there is a lack of a comprehensive vision to mobilize those who can help provide solutions. Although the peoples living in isolation are included in official reports, addressing their problems is limited by bureaucracy and by a lack of understanding of how serious they are.
This is in contrast with the strength shown by the Amazon Indigenous organizations, whose capacity for action has been demonstrated since 1990 with the March for Territory and Dignity, a landmark in the history of Bolivia when the issue of the country’s Indigenous Amazon peoples was placed on the national agenda. However, 16 years later, the issue of peoples living in isolation continues to be secondary, anecdotic and almost invisible, including for many of the organizations working in the Amazon itself.
The Toromona are an archetypical case of the above. They are part of the Tacana linguistic family and their unquestionable historic past is barely known or valued. Today, it is presumed that indigenous people from that ethnic group are living in a sector of the Rio Colorado valley and at the headwaters of the Sonene or Heath River, inside the Madidi National Park in the northern Amazon part of the Department of La Paz. This presence should be certified forthwith to enable actions for strict protection to be undertaken.
As the Madidi Expedition, we have been struggling for this to happen since 2000 when we were made aware of the issue while working in the mestizo communities adjacent to the alleged Toromona territory. In October last year, we observed with alarm and publicly denounced that the region was seething with logging companies which, in their eagerness to find precious wood, could come into violent contact with the group living in isolation, and thus seriously threaten their existence. In this respect we are preparing a further expedition to the region in the dry season to complete our field work and present the indications and/or sufficient material and/or visual evidence to prove the survival of the historic Toromona people, respecting their right to isolation, that is to say, avoiding any physical contact either by us or by anyone else.
This new expedition is inscribed in a different context. Bolivia as a nation is going through a time of historic changes. For the first time, an indigenous person has become President of the Republic. In this respect we feel sure of the understanding and support of Evo Morales, the country’s highest authority. At the same time we hope that the issue of the Indigenous Peoples Living in Isolation and the Indigenous Peoples in Highly Vulnerable Situations is included in the text of the new Bolivian State Political Constitution that will start to be discussed as from 6 August in the city of Sucre in the framework of a Constituent Assembly.
Through this article, not only do we want to warn about the risk involved for the isolated peoples of Bolivia, but also to convince those who want to help the Toromona that they should contact us. They may do so through the following e-mail: email@example.com . The struggle for the protection of the last of the peoples living in isolation in the Bolivian Amazon can wait no longer. It is now or never.
By: Pablo Cingolani, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fundación Expedición Madidi
Those wishing to learn more
on this subject can do so at www.bolpress.com or at the blog
www.cingolani.ssolucion.com containing the document “Sobre
antropología de urgencia en Bolivia: Pueblos étnicos
de tierras bajas en situación de alta vulnerabilidad
y en aislamiento voluntario” prepared by the anthropologist
Álvaro Díez Astete. . The document is also available
at WRM’s web page at:
According to Recommendation no. 01 of 18 November 2005, the Federal Public Ministry, through the Attorney of the Republic in Ilheus-Bahia, is demanding the removal of eucalyptus plantations in a radius of 10 (ten) kilometres in the buffer zones of the Conservation Units of the Do Descubrimento, Monte Pascoal and Pau Brasil National Parks, as determined by Brazilian legislation. The document also sets out that in order to restore the environment these enterprises, that is to say the pulp companies, must prepare a Plan for the Restoration of Degraded Areas (PRDA), immediately following the removal of the eucalyptus plantations.
For almost fifteen years now, the Centre for Studies and Research for the Development of the Extreme South of Bahia (CEPEDES), together with other bodies, has been lodging complaints regarding the irregularities committed by pulp companies in Bahia and Espirito Santo. In Bahia, among many other irregularities are the eucalyptus plantations surrounding Conservation Units, violating Federal Law No. 9,985 of 18 July 2000, which sets out stipulations regarding the National System of Conservation Units – SNUC and establishes buffer zones surrounding the parks. These buffer zones should be used as ecological corridors to guarantee the survival of local species of flora and fauna and maintenance and strengthening of biodiversity.
This decision of the Federal Public Ministry is a result of the public hearing held in October 2005 at the Porto Seguro Convention Centre. On that occasion, civil society organizations demanded that measures be taken regarding the irregularities committed by the pulp companies, through formal petitions addressed to the Federal and State Public Ministry and to IBAMA (the Brazilian Environmental Institute) and CRA (the Centre for Environmental Resources), which are responsible for authorizing and following up on plantations.
The recommendation emphasizes that the “Mata Atlântica [Atlantic Forest] is a national heritage, as established by the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil in its article 224, item 4, and its use must follow legally established rules in order to ensure environmental conservation and Decree 750/1993 strictly forbids logging, exploitation and removal of the primary vegetation or of vegetation in an advanced or intermediary state of regeneration.” It also adds that the replacement of thousands of plant species by a single species of economic interest, aimed at the pulp industry, promotes risks for the local fauna and flora.
Administrative file nº 1.14.001.000046/2001-67 is being processed which monitors the authorization for the location of the illegal plantation of 45,000 hectares of eucalyptus trees by Aracruz Celulose in the extreme south of Bahia.
Between 1970 and 1985 Bahia lost 70% of its native forests with the arrival of the paper and pulp mill companies Suzano Bahia Sul, Aracruz, CAF Santa Barbara Ltd. and Veracel. According to recent studies by the Ministry of the Environment, there is only 4 per cent left of the original Mata Atlântica in reserve areas in the extreme south of Bahia. It is estimated that in this region over half the arable land is in the hands of the companies. Approximately 12 thousand families are camping along the highways. The eviction of rural workers, quilombolas (descendents from slaves), small farmers and rural Indigenous People has led to a significant increase in favelas (shanty towns), the disintegration of groups and families, violence and extreme poverty.
The development model imposed by governments for this region has destroyed entire systems of plant and animal life. The wealth generated by the economic model favouring concentration of income and land, has not prevented the growth of extreme poverty and hunger. To face this, demonstrations and movements have arisen reflecting the awareness of a significant part of the population regarding environmental and social violence caused by the vast stretches of monoculture eucalyptus plantations in the region.
Therefore, in view of this resolution by the Federal Public Ministry to have IBAMA, the Environmental organization, take measures in making the pulp companies remove the eucalyptus plantations surrounding parks, once again it is evident that the declarations of an environmental nature made by the pulp companies through the mass media, are being demolished. The meetings promoted by the pulp companies, aimed at masking the truth and discussing ecological corridors, now have no sense. What we have here in the extreme south of Bahia is not a central corridor for the Mata Atlântica, what we have here is a central corridor of an extensive monoculture eucalyptus plantation with small patches or isolated mosaics of degraded Mata Atlântica.
The decision by the Federal Public Ministry is an unusual event and a very significant one for organized civil society in the extreme south of Bahia, as for a long time now they have been asking for the responsible authorities to take measures to prevent the total destruction of this biome. Now it is not only up to IBAMA and to the NGOs to monitor the activities of these companies, but also up to the population, the most interested party in preserving what is left of the Mata Atlântica.
Following the adoption of the Forestry Bill in Congress, it was sent for presidential sanction on 13 December 2005. President Alvaro Uribe objected to 12 of the articles of the Law and it was expected that the text would be returned with the objections for discussion by Congress as set out in the procedure. Although the government’s objections – in the case of being adopted – do not solve the problems involved in this Law designed to hand over the country’s forests to the logging companies, it was expected that these objections would at least be given time for debate by the members of parliament. However, this was not the case.
The Forestry Bill was adopted on 28 March during the Chamber plenary meeting. The session took place in an accelerated, confused and unintelligible way and the presidential objections were enunciated. They were all adopted without discussion in just a few minutes, without providing the interested parties with the opportunity to know what was being adopted. The most shameful thing was that while it was being adopted, the parliamentarians were holding lively discussions in the corridors using their cell phones or laughing in a grotesque performance. Many of us who attended the Chamber premises as observers and who had been waiting for the debate were unaware that it had taken place. The following day, during the Senate Plenary, the way in which it was adopted was even more aberrant, because it was a Plenary with scant participation of the Senate. Without checking the quorum the Forestry Bill was addressed during one session lasting a few minutes where it was rapidly presented and with absolutely no discussion of the adoption of the government’s objections to the Bill. These facts reiterate the shady interests in deceitfully passing a totally illegitimate law, evading public debate.
The unfortunate way this bill was adopted leaves us with serious questionings and the feeling that the procedure followed was illegal or at least non ethical.
This shows once again the government’s eagerness to implement a perverse and ill-intentioned strategy to dissuade growing criticism of the Forestry Bill and to leave the legal framework unaltered in substance thus enabling the large logging investors to have easy access to the country’s forests while enjoying privileges. This was made evident throughout the process with the main private companies exerting pressure as lobbyists to have the Bill adopted, in close collaboration with Chemonics (USAID) and the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, overriding the serious and repeated criticism expressed by various sectors of Colombian society.
There is also evidence that it is only now that the parliamentarians have been given Congress Gazette No. 50, dated 24 March 2006, containing the Government’s objections. Therefore there was no preparation for the debate. Even with the acceptance of the 12 objections, the Bill was adopted just as it came from Chamber Commission V, which in essence did not change the structure, the objectives or the scope of the Bill, as in fact work was carried out on “cleaning up and adapting the language” to overcome formal difficulties regarding the unconstitutionality involved in this regulation.
The objective was to mask some of the Bill’s perverse aspects, particularly those related with the future both of public forests and of those belonging to Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. The lack of responsibility of most of the Congress members and of the national Government is clearly manifest when addressing an issue that is as transcendental for the country as the preservation and sustainable management of the nation’s natural heritage, one of the planet’s most important forest ecosystems. Following this aberrant procedure during Congress plenary meetings, the only step pending is presidential sanction of the Bill.
We appeal to Indigenous, peasant, Afro-Colombian and environmental organizations and to those who feel that the heritage rights of the Nation’s forests and the rights of the Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant communities are being violated to express their rejection of the injurious Forestry Bill and to carry out action to enable the forests to be preserved for the country’s present and future generations. Likewise, to obtain recognition of the importance of appropriate, sustainable, responsible, participative and autonomous management by the true owners, who conserve and enrich the forests of Colombia.
Various Colombian organizations are promoting a campaign against this Bill. Those wishing to join in the campaign should please send your support to the following e-mail address: email@example.com
Grupo Semillas – Censat
Agua Viva, Friends of the Earth - Fundación Swissaid
- Paula Álvarez - Consejo Comunitario de la comunidad
negra del río Cajambre – Cecoin – Consejo
comunitario del río Naya – Consejo Comunitario
de Cupica – Cabildo Embera Katío del Alto San Jorge
– Mesa de manglares del Pacífico – Unión
Territorial Interétnica del Naya – Consejo Comunitario
del Naya – Fundación Jenzerá – REDJUAN
– Re-movilidad Sustentable – Proceso de Comunidades
Negras PCN – Friends of the Earth International - COECOCeiba
AT Costa Rica –Friends of the Earth International Forest
Program– World Rainforest Movement WRM – RAPAL Uruguay
– REDES Friends of the Earth Uruguay – Eco La Paz
Argentina – Organización Nacional Indígena
de Colombia ONIC …signatures follow
A new FSC certificate of a major logging operation has again raised eyebrows among foresters, environmentalists and human rights activists. In Guyana, the Swiss certification company SGS Qualifor has just granted an FSC certificate to the Malaysian-Korean logging giant, Barama Company Limited (BCL), which operates a 1.69 million hectare concession in North West Guyana. BCL is co-owned by the South Korean trans-national Sun Kyong and by the controversial Malaysian logger, Samling Timbers Sdn Bhd, whose logging on the ancestral lands of the Penan people in Sarawak, Malaysia, continues to spark protest.
When BCL was first awarded the concession in Guyana under less than transparent circumstances in 1991, the agreement granted it an extensive tax holiday on terms that were so generous that besides being loudly denounced as a sell out by opposition politicians, amidst allegations of corruption, also led to it being questioned by institutions like the World Resources Institute. Even the British government, which later gave support to the ‘development’ of Guyana’s forestry sector, admitted that the contract was too generous and should be revised.
During the 1990s, BCL ran its logging operations from the northern end of its concession driving roads south into the forests around Arakaka and Matthew’s Ridge and shipping the extracted logs by barge out of Port Kaituma, downriver, east along the coast and then having them processed nearer the capital, Georgetown, at its plywood factory at Land of Canaan. The logging operations were denounced by the Amerindian Peoples’ Association, the main national indigenous organisation, which documented how BCL operations had ignored indigenous rights, bulldozed gravesites, forcibly relocated Amerindian villagers to make way for the log pond and allowed the local environment to be depleted by hunters and wildcat miners entering along the logging roads. It took ten years for the government to regularise the tenure of the Carib Indians at Baramita on the western edge of the concession but a number of other Amerindian settlements in the concession remain untitled and unrecognised to this day. Meanwhile the plywood factory near Georgetown has suffered a constant rumble of intractable labour disputes.
BCL alleged that it had
trouble making money out of its massive concession in the North
West as the forests there just yielded relatively small diameter
baromalli trees. It began buying higher quality timbers from
other concessionaires including entering into controversial
and ill-regulated deals with Amerindian communities that led
to documented over-harvesting and community divisions.
Local foresters were alarmed
at the hasty way that BCL was going about getting a certificate.
While BCL joined other forestry companies and conservationists
in a national initiative to develop Guyanese FSC standards,
BCL simultaneously sought certification under the FSC generic
standard, locally adapted to Guyana by SGS Qualifor through
consultations,. There was a fracas in 2003 when allegations
were circulated that BCL had insisted on Amerindian complaints
about BCL’s operations being expunged from the minutes
of a multi-stakeholder meeting. Guyanese foresters also questioned
the good faith of BCL in the national standards development
process. Why wasn’t the company waiting for the national
interpretation of the Guyana National Initiative for Forest
Certification and was instead pushing for a certificate under
the SGS Qualifor generic one, they asked ?
Announcing the FSC certificate to a press conference on 26th March in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, BCL claimed that its operations have not turned a profit in 15 years of operation! (Reminding cynical observers of the famous Japanese and Malaysian logging operations in Papua New Guinea which have likewise managed to show no profits, mainly by the auditors’ trick of ‘transfer pricing’). BCL’s alleged lack of profitability begs the question, so how come the company got certified when one of FSC’s key principles is that operations should be ‘economically viable’? And if the company has not benefited from logging nearly 1/5th of Guyana’s ‘permanent forest estate’, then who has? The tax holiday enjoyed by the company means that Guyana’s exchequer has got next to nothing. The Amerindians have been vociferous in their complaints since the operation started. For their part, Port Kaituma residents lament that the temporary boom in local jobs of the 1990s is already over and they are left with depleted game, ruined forests and crumbling infrastructure. Is this the ‘sustainable forest management’ that the FSC is meant to promote?
The BCL certificate has been loudly, maybe not correctly, trumpeted as the ‘single largest block of tropical forests in the world certified by the FSC’. Please pass the sick bag…..
By Marcus Colchester. Forest Peoples Programme, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For SGS audit see: http://www.sgs.com/9205-gy_-_barama_ma2005-10_-_ad36a-03_gm.pdf
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