Mandakhaitsetsen “Manda” Urantulkhuur arrived from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last week for a 10-week ELAW Fellowship. This is her first visit to the U.S.

Manda from MongoliaManda began classes yesterday at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute and will work closely with ELAW staff to advance the economic, social, and cultural rights of Mongolia’s disenfranchised.

Manda is Coordinator of the Community Based Development Program at the Centre for Human Rights and Development. Her program has empowered women’s groups in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan, and the provinces of Uvurkhangai, Dornod, and Khentii.

Manda has a bachelor’s degree in education from the Pedagogical University of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and a masters degree in Inter-Asia NGO Studies from Sungkonghoe University, South Korea.

Many thanks to Michael and SueAnn Rangeloff for being Manda’s host family for her first week in Eugene.

We will keep you posted on Manda’s work.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

Malaysia, Penang Island in red

Malaysia, Penang Island in red

Fishing communities in Malaysia are worried about plans to build an artificial island for 12,000 homes, and a marina and yacht club off the east coast of Penang Island.

ELAW partners in Malaysia called on us for help evaluating the project’s environmental impact assessment (DEIA). ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Heidi Weiskel found that the DEIA grossly underestimates the project’s impact on fisheries and the environment. “The project would result in permanent loss of mudflats and seabed habitat critical for fisheries and birds,” says Mark.

Mark and Heidi know from working with ELAW partners around the world that grandiose coastal developments are at risk of financial collapse if consumer demand for the project evaporates. The DEIA for the project lacks any financial assurances for a remedy should the project be launched then abandoned.

Mark and Heidi’s report critiquing the DEIA was in the Malaysian news last week.

We will keep you posted about advances in the case.

Many thanks for your interest!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW Fellows Oksana Imetkhenova and Liubov Balandina returned to Ulan-Ude earlier this month with new tools and inspiration to protect Lake Baikal and surrounding forests.

Oksana (left) and Liubov

Oksana wrote:

“The ELAW Fellows Program was very intense and fruitful. It helped us a lot to see with our own eyes, ask questions, and learn new things — not only in the field of environmental law, but about the USA as a whole.”

Oksana is Chair of the Department of Ecology, Health and Safety at the East Siberia State University of Technology and Management. Liubov is finishing her degree in environmental engineering, and is getting a second degree in law, at the same University. Both work with the Buryat Regional Organization for Lake Baikal.

During their Fellowships, Oksana and Liubov met one-on-one with ELAW Staff Attorneys and Scientists, and U.S. experts in forest protection and litigation. They toured Oregon’s national forests with Zane Smith, a retired U.S. Forest Service officer who spent many years working on forest issues in Eastern Siberia. They met with local forest experts and learned about current research on forest landslides. They attended classes at the University of Oregon School of Law, presented their work at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, and collaborated with ELAW Fellows from Mongolia, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and Uganda.

After nine days in Eugene, they toured Lake Tahoe with ELAW Board Member and mining expert Dr. Glenn Miller, met with a representative from the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, and toured a controversial gold mine and surrounding community in Virginia City, Nevada.

Many thanks to the Earth Island Institute and the Trust for Mutual Understanding for making these ELAW Fellowships possible.

Maggie Keenan

Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

ELAW partner Norma Alvares of the Goa Foundation has won a tremendous victory in India.  The Bombay High Court ruled that the Grand Hyatt Hotel was illegally constructed in the protected Coastal Regulation Zone, which prohibits development within 200 meters of the sea coast and 100 meters of tidal rivers.

Grand Hyatt Hotel

Grand Hyatt Hotel

The Goa Foundation first filed this case in 2007 and fought for 7 years to show that the Grand Hotel Goa falsified plans and constructed the hotel in blatant violation of the law.

Norma says: “The Grand Hyatt victory is significant because it has shown that although the international corporation deliberately cheated and tried to defeat the coastal law – by substituting the approved plans with fake ones, by colluding with the government officials to make all the project files disappear, and abused the court process by repeatedly filing applications and appeals to delay the hearing of this case – the law finally caught up with them: their shameful fraud now stands exposed and they face the prospect of the same fate that ordinary Goans who illegally constructed in the prohibited Coastal Regulation Zone were compelled to do, namely, demolition of their illegal structures.

A three-judge panel will now consider what is the appropriate remedy for the Grand Hyatt’s violations. Norma will be asking the court to order the Grand Hyatt to remove the hotel and restore the coastal zone.

Congratulations to Norma and the Goa Foundation for winning a huge victory, strengthening the rule of law, and protecting India’s invaluable coastal zone!

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

We were surprised and thrilled Saturday night to learn that we were receiving the 2014 David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award. The students of Land Air Water, the organizers of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), awarded us this high honor.

We were so surprised, in fact, that we found ourselves speechless.  Now, we want to thank the student organizers and the following people for inspiring us over the past 20 years:

David Brower was a guiding light for all of us. To be given an award with his name is the ultimate honor.

Public interest lawyers from 10 countries founded ELAW in 1989.  We are indebted to the founding U.S. directors, John Bonine, Mike Axline, and Mary O’Brien for trusting us with their vision.

Our work at ELAW is a team effort.  The most senior staff won this award, but our success would not be possible without the whole team, which includes:  Jackie Chimelewski, Kalindi Devi-Dasi, Glenn Gillis, Maggie Keenan, Michele Kuhnle,  Pedro Leon, Liz Mitchell, David Pugh, Heidi Weiskel, and Ashley White.

ELAW partners in 70 countries are standing up for the rights of communities. We are lucky and honored to be supporting their work.

We are humbled by this recognition.

Many thanks!

Bern Johnson, Executive Director
Lori Maddox, Associate Director
Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist
Meche Lu, Staff Scientist
Jen Gleason, Staff Attorney

ELAW’s newest Fellow, Harriet Bibangambah from Kampala, Uganda, arrived on Monday. Over the next two weeks she will work with the ELAW team to strengthen her organization, Greenwatch. She will also attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) and meet ELAW partners from around the world.

Harriet is Program and Research Officer at Greenwatch, which promotes public participation in the sustainable use, management, and protection of the environment and natural resources, and the enforcement of Uganda’s Constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment.

“We work at all levels, including traveling to remote villages and sitting down with community members to hear their concerns and share information about oil and gas operations,” says Harriet.

French, British, and Chinese companies have a joint oil venture in the Albertine Rift, with test wells inside Murchison Falls National Park and oil exploration near Virunga National Park, across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Communities need access to information about these developments so they can participate in decisions about natural resources,” says Harriet.

Harriet is part of East Africa’s new generation of grassroots defenders. ELAW has worked with Greenwatch for more than 10 years.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

We are pleased to announce 10 years of collaboration with Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN) — an inspiring organization of dedicated environmental leaders working to protect Mexico’s Baja California.

DAN attorney Maria Llano stopped by our office last week to celebrate our partnership and discuss the threat of an enormous open pit gold mine proposed for Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve.

Maria Llano (center) meets with ELAW staff

The proposed project would include a desalination plant, a 40-km aqueduct from the coast to the project site, and water-filled ponds for disposing of high volumes of cyanide soaked waste rock.

“The disposal method poses serious risk,” says Mark Chernaik, ELAW Staff Scientist. “The tailings ponds could contaminate water supplies and the local habitat with acid mine drainage, and once the mining operation is over it will be impossible to return the site to its former condition.”

SEMARNAT (Mexico’s EPA) denied permission for the project twice, but a third Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been submitted for an even larger project.

“The new version is worse than the original, calling for disposal of wastes in a thinner slurry that will impact a even larger area of undeveloped land,” says Mark.

ELAW’s science team worked closely with Maria and her colleagues at DAN to review the series of EIAs for the proposed gold mine.

“Now we have to wait until SEMARNAT makes a decision, hopefully rejecting the project again,” says Maria. “If not, we will continue the struggle to promote the rule of law, and protect the biodiversity and the quality of life in the region.

We will keep you informed of our progress in Mexico and around the world to level the playing field for grassroots advocates and local communities.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
& Fellows Program Coordinator

When tourists visit Panama, they enjoy the beaches, islands, and mountain forests.  ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel was in Panama this month with a different agenda.

Heidi used her marine ecologist’s eye to take in what’s threatening Panama’s natural environment.  She joined ELAW partners to tour a new highway project that has cut through Panama Bay, the site of a proposed mega-port near Colon, and the site of a gold and copper mine that threatens the Tonosi and Quema Rivers on the Azuero Peninsula.

   Heidi (right) and ELAW partners in Panama

“The coral reefs and mangroves in the area where ‘Puerto Verde’ is planned are showing very important signs of recovery from oil spills in the 1980s,” says Heidi.  “If this ‘green port’ — a miserable misnomer — goes forward, the mangroves will be cut and the seabed, including the reefs, will be dredged.  We met with subsistence fishermen and farmers in the area and none of them want the port.”

ELAW is working with partners at El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), Centro de Asistencia Legal Popular Programa para Refugiados, MarViva Panama, and Derechos Humanos, Ambiente y Comunidades to ensure that communities and grassroots advocates have the information they need to make their voices heard and protect Panama for future generations.

In February, we will welcome CIAM Staff Attorney Luisa Arauz for a two-week ELAW Fellowship.  Luisa developed an interest in nature and international issues at a young age from her father, a nature guide, and her mother, a diplomat.  Luisa will work one-on-one with ELAW staff and participate in the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference where she will speak about access to information and participation in environmental impact studies of proposed hydroelectric dams and genetically-modified salmon projects.
Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director
& Fellows Program Coordinator

In Africa, corporations seeking oil, gas, gold, and timber threaten agricultural lands, waterways, and national parks.  ELAW is working with local advocates to level the playing field for threatened communities.  Together we are:

  • Strengthening hydraulic fracturing regulations in South Africa.
  • Reviewing and improving gold mining concession agreements in Ghana.
  • Protecting communities around Kenya’s Lake Turkana from oil development schemes.
  • Building strong NGOs in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda that will work to protect communities and the environment for years to come.
  • Creating strategic tools to dissect complicated natural resource concession contracts and advocate for stronger environmental, social, and fiscal provisions.

Harriet newNext month, we will welcome Harriet Bibangambah, a Ugandan environmental advocate working with ELAW partner organization Greenwatch, for a two-week ELAW Fellowship.  Harriet will work with the ELAW team and attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon School of Law.

Stay tuned for more updates about ELAW’s work in Africa and Harriet’s Fellowship.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW partners are speaking out for clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet. Enjoy some recent press clips featuring our partners in Tanzania, India, and Israel.

Photo: Mark Boulton, ICCE

Tanzania:  Daily News

Go for big poachers too

January 2, 2014 — Tanzania’s anti-poaching “Operation Tokomeza” was suspended following reports of rampant human rights abuses. ELAW partner Rugemeleza Nshala says the operation targeted “small fish.”  Rugemeleza says “we need to identify and stop the heavyweights behind the illicit trade.”

India:  The Economic Times

Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta’s moves have India Inc see red

December 23, 2013 – Ritwick Dutta fought his first case at the age of 28 against Vedanta, representing the Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri, who wanted to stop the London-listed giant from mining bauxite. Dutta fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which then asked Vedanta to get approval from the tribals to start mining. The tribals rejected the request, and the hills remain untouched. “Virtually 330 acres of forest land is diverted every day in India, according to the ministry of environment,” says Dutta. “I don’t think these fights have stopped India from progressing.”

Israel:  The Jerusalem Post

State proposes legal framework for complete alteration of national policy on coastal waters

December 18, 2013 — The Justice Ministry unveiled a draft bill that will restructure the laws governing Israel’s coastal waters. While praising the Justice Ministry’s decision to issue a bill, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) cited several flaws within its text that could allow for an “environmental disaster” to occur in waters that the organization describes as the “Wild West.”

Thank you for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

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