Mangroves play a critical role buffering coastal communities against flooding and storms and provide habitat for thousands of species of birds and marine animals.  Recent evidence suggests that mangroves sequester carbon very effectively and healthy mangroves could help protect our climate.

Unfortunately, humans are destroying huge areas of mangroves and if we do not take action they may be functionally extinct by the turn of the century.

 

I am pleased to report on a new resource for protecting mangroves:

ELAW Mangrove Science Database.

Dr.  Heidi Weiskel, ELAW Staff Scientist, worked closely with David Pugh, ELAW Web Designer, to ensure that key research on mangroves, published by more than 75 scientists, is included in this comprehensive resource for citizens worldwide.

We have summarized each scientific study in our Mangrove Science Database in English and Spanish.  We have plotted research on specific mangrove forests on a world map.  As new studies are completed, we will add them to the database.  Our user-friendly tool will help communities and grassroots advocates around the world make the case to protect mangroves.  I encourage you to visit the ELAW Mangrove Science Database and share it with your colleagues.

Thank you!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Central America is home to breathtaking beaches, islands, mountains, and forests.  Unfortunately, proposed mining threatens many of these natural treasures.

Panama river

Sediment laden water flows from the river to the reef.

ELAW Board Member and mining expert Glenn Miller traveled to Panama and Honduras last week to collaborate with ELAW partners at the Environmental Advocacy Center (Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, CIAM) and the Environmental Law Institute (Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras, IDAMHO) to protect communities and the environment from mining industry abuses.

In Panama, Glenn flew by helicopter to see first hand the destruction caused by copper and gold mines.

We followed the erosion to the coast and saw a large plume of sediment that was being sent to the coral reef…  We also saw a reportedly bankrupt gold mine that had ponds that were near overflowing and no real management of the excess water,” said Glenn.

Open mine

Open pit mine

In both countries, Glenn met with regulators, public health experts, NGO staff, and community members interested in learning about the real impact of mining operations.  Photos from his helicopter tour make clear the hazards of unregulated mining.

It has been amazing and a great success to have Glenn in Panama,” says Sonia Montenegro.  “CIAM staff and the conference participants keep talking about how much they learned.

Public interest attorneys communicating with the government and affected communities are key to protecting the environment through law and key to ELAW’s work.  Courageous ELAW partners like the team at CIAM are working to prevent and remedy mining abuses and ensure that all Panamanians and Hondurans have access to a healthy, clean environment.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

goat_islands_400width

Photo: Jeremy Francis

ELAW is working with partners in Jamaica to protect key marine ecosystems.

The Goat Islands, adjoining mangroves, and at least one fish sanctuary in the Portland Bight Protected Area may be destroyed to make way for a mega trans-shipment port, proposed by the international contractor China Harbour Engineering Company.

Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, writes:

“ELAW is helping us with legal research to build the arguments for our Access to Information case, to get critical information on the benefits of this proposal to Jamaica.  This is like having a large legal department to rely on.  ELAW’s help really extends and improves what we are able to do.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case in October.

In an opinion piece last week for CNN, Wendy Townsend interviewed Diana.  Here’s an excerpt:

“McCaulay says developing Goat Islands extends the global crisis of unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.  ‘Jamaica is a small island,’ she says, ‘but this is happening all over the world, relentless pressure for high impact development that doesn’t benefit local populations, particularly those who use the resources.  Although global climate change is a clear danger to island nations, we are still building on the coast and taking out natural protections like mangroves.  Our regulatory agencies simply cannot cope, especially with players like China who have huge financial resources and care little about the environment.'”

We will keep you informed of our progress protecting the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

P1080368.group.grass.2Last week I had the pleasure of joining 45 lawyers from East Africa to discuss how to defend the rights of communities threatened by the push for land and resources throughout the region.

With generous support from the Ford Foundation, ELAW partnered with Greenwatch in Uganda to host a workshop for lawyers from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  The aim was to help young lawyers gain the skills they need to defend the rights of communities threatened by extractive industries.

More experienced lawyers came to give presentations and share their expertise.  But they also came to forge ties with the next generation of lawyers and mentor lawyers just starting out.  They depended on experienced lawyers to help them as they got started, and now they are happy to help the next generation of lawyers.

We are also helping build relationships between young lawyers within each country and across borders, so they know they are not alone taking on powerful interests.

In addition to Greenwatch, ELAW partners at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) in Kenya and the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Tanzania helped organize the workshop.

I left the workshop inspired and full of hope and I believe that we all went away better prepared to defend the rights of communities threatened by unsustainable development.

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

The Aranmula Boat Race takes place on the Pampa River, near the site of the proposed airport. Photo by Arun Sinha/CC BY.

The Aranmula Boat Race takes place on the Pampa River, near the site of the proposed airport. Photo by Arun Sinha/CC BY.

ELAW partners in India have sent good news! The Chennai Bench of the National Green Tribunal has shelved plans for a private airport in Kerala that threatened key wetlands.

ELAW partner T. Mohan represented community members in a David and Goliath battle that included a 100-day strike by local community groups opposed to the airport.

Mohan and Devika wrote to thank ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik:  “Many thanks to Mark who provided critical input on the Environmental Impact Assessment, deciphering google maps. His comments proved to be the death knell for the clearance.”

Conversion of rice paddy fields to make way for the airport threatened wetlands and fisheries in the Pamba River basin. The company says it will appeal.  We will keep you posted about this case.

Read more here:

National Green Tribunal judgement

Kerala Govt backs out of Aranmula airport project

Green Tribunal cancels environment clearance to Aranmula airport

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel recently traveled to Haiti to help partners at L’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) work with communities in and around Caracol, one of the towns near a new marine protected area (MPA), Les Trois Baies.

MPAs have the potential to benefit local communities and help safeguard Haiti’s vital natural treasures for generations to come, if managed properly.

Community members at the workshop

Community members at the workshop

ELAW partners at AHDEN brought together 35 community members − mostly fishermen, salt producers, and farmers − for a two-day workshop. Jean André Victor, President of AHDEN, opened the meeting and set the stage for increasing community involvement in the MPA process.

Heidi talked about MPAs and how the community can be involved in plans for the region and creating the Trois Baies MPA management plan.

Some of the participants were skeptical about becoming involved, and Jean André responded eloquently about the importance of civil society engagement, the strength of community, and the fundamental right to participate. By the end of Jean André’s presentation, community members had clearly opened up to the idea of becoming involved in the MPA process.

Jean André helped the community members organize and create a strategy for engaging with groups with a stake in the MPA. Going forward, ELAW will provide scientific and legal tools as needed to help the community become more involved in the MPA process.

Many thanks to the Waitt Foundation and the Clinton Foundation for making ELAW’s work to protect critical marine ecosystems in Haiti possible!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW partner Alejandra Serrano sent thrilling news this weekend!

 Holbox Island
 Holbox Island

The proposed “Ensenada” development, which threatened the stunning landscape and rich fisheries of Quintana Roo’s Holbox Island, has been shelved.

Alejandra and her colleagues at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law have worked since 2012 to protect islanders from this out-sized tourism scheme.

Alejandra writes:

“The development would have devastated the Yum Balam Protected Area and local fisheries.  The Environmental Impact Assessment was deficient and the company withdrew.  Many thanks to the ELAW team for your technical support, friendship, and support to carry on.”

Community members were right to be concerned.  The developer’s plans included hotels, villas, condominiums, offices, a shopping plaza, roads, and a helicopter pad, all located in the Protected Area.  The community of under 2,000 would have been dwarfed by new housing for thousands of visitors.  The developers also proposed cutting channels through pristine mangroves to increase waterfront acreage.

Read more here:

Associated Press:
Developers withdraw plan for resort on Mexico’s Holbox island off Yucatan peninsula

ELAW Reports:
Protecting the Yucatan, by ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox (see pp.  4-5)

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel visits CEMDA

Alejandra Serrano, ELAW Fellowship

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

 

Download the latest issue of the ELAW Advocate.

ELAW Spring 2014.indd

“I never intended to become a lawyer,” Fernando told me.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

As a child, Fernando read a marine mammal encyclopedia and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. His father persuaded him that law was a practical tool and besides, Mexico City was far from the ocean.

After a few years at a private firm, Fernando secured a job with ProNatura, providing legal advice about conservation instruments for private lands. One day, Fernando’s boss mentioned plans for a marina in Bahia de los Angeles which would have spelled death for the whale shark population in that area. ProNatura does excellent work in private lands conservation, but fighting this marina was not a part of their mission.

With ProNatura’s support and encouragement, Fernando founded Environmental Defense Northwest, or DAN by its Spanish acronym, to take on the case. Only after the battle began did they learn that the marina was step one of the enormous Escalera Nautica project — a series of marinas and ports that would have industrialized the Baja California peninsula and radically altered this world-class landscape, devastating the marine mammals that migrate up and down this coast.

DAN stopped the marina, and the phone has not stopped ringing since. DAN will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, and now has a staff of eight and a full docket.

In a globalized world, the Baja Peninsula is ideally situated for developments of all kinds, and the pressure is relentless. Among their projects, DAN is an integral part of the multi-faceted, coordinated campaign to preserve Cabo Pulmo, a biological wonderland off Baja California Sur’s southeast tip. Cabo Pulmo faces recurring threats from big resort developers.

“I’m glad I have these legal tools, and that we’re winning,” says Fernando, who lingers over a used copy of the marine mammal encyclopedia which he recently found for home.

When he’s not saving marine mammals and their habitat, Fernando is a skilled photographer, and loves teaching his 3-year-old, Constanza, world capitals and counting to 10 in different languages.

Fernando is a valued member of the worldwide ELAW network.
We applaud his good work!

Lori Maddox
Associate Director

China faces enormous environmental challenges. Ashley White, contract attorney, is helping the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) reach out to new partners in China to build the worldwide corps of grassroots advocates.

cn.2014. Ashley White & Caidan CaoAshley traveled to Qingdao earlier this month to receive her Master’s degree in Environmental & Natural Resources Protection Law from Ocean University of China. She also traveled to Beijing where she met with Caidan Cao, Legal Coordinator for Greenpeace East Asia.

“Caidan is a passionate environmental advocate for energy, climate change, and marine protection, both within China and internationally,” says Ashley.

Caidan is challenging the harmful impacts of coal in China and strengthening ocean and coastal environmental protection in the East Asia region. Caidan spoke with Ashley about her work helping pollution victims and provided insight into recent reforms to China’s environmental laws.

ELAW is seeking support to bring Caidan to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship, to build her advocacy skills and forge ties with her colleagues around the world.

Please contact me if you are interested in helping Caidan!

Sincerely,

Maggie Keenan
maggie(at)elaw.org
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

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